Clarke County’s Board of Supervisors heard new details about a 187-acre regional park proposed for what is currently the site Virginia National Golf course which stretches along the Shenandoah River in the northeast corner of the County. Proponents of the park see it as an environmentally appropriate land use for the area that will offer improved river access to the public and reduce harmful pesticide and fertilizer use from the existing golf course. Opponents have expressed concern over the $65K per year price tag associated with managing the park, control measures for preventing inappropriate activities at the park, litter and protection of private property.
Clarke County environmental planner Alison Teetor provided the Supervisors with answers to a range of topics and concerns at a recent informational session. Teetor told the Supervisors that contrary to information provided by Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority executive Paul Gilbert earlier this month, the organization offering to purchase the property, the Civil War Trust, will not provide the $65K to fund Clarke County’s NVRPA dues for the first year.
Teetor also said that rather than eliminating forty property dwelling unit rights as originally estimated, the park will likely remove only about fifteen dwelling unit rights.
Teetor addressed a range of park-specific concerns raised by both the Supervisors as well as members of the community including the status of the Parker manor house, park supervisory personnel as well as road and easement access.
Teetor said that a November, 2007 conditional approval letter for the manor house approved the building as a restaurant for the golf course with seating capacity of 74 persons, meeting facility for 140 persons and special events for up to 350 guests. However, Teetor confirmed that the manor house special use permit is tied to the golf course but said that the golf course went bankrupt before the manor house was transferred to the golf course owners.
County Zoning Administrator Jesse Russell then confirmed that because the manor house is not included in the NVRPA proposal, anyone subsequently interested in the manor house will be required to seek a new special use permit. Teetor also said that executive director Gilbert has publicly stated that the NVRPA will follow all County event ordinance requirements and any other requirements the County would impose and that Virginia state code regulates the development of any public facility whether it is a park, police station, or government building.
Teetor provided the Supervisors with a draft Deed of Easement for the property from the purchasing entity, the Civil War Trust.
Security concerns have been raised by residents in the nearby Shenandoah Retreat community which shares a border with the proposed park, along with fire prevention and suppression, hours of operation and the specific days and months of operation for the park.
Teetor told the Supervisors that NVRPA’s Gilbert stated that park personnel would call the fire department if a fire occurred and would have no extraordinary firefighting capabilities other than to manage maintenance activities so as not to create a fire hazard and would be willing to work with Shenandoah Retreat residents to designate safe area for brush fires and or maintenance burns.
Gilbert also stated, according to Teetor, that the Park Authority routinely develops good working relationship with area law enforcement so that local authorities are aware of the hours of operation and activities occurring at the park site.
Teetor said that eventually the NVRPA may provide a residence for onsite 24/7 staffing but that no firm commitment is currently in place.
Teetor stated that road maintenance and ownership, including the road used to access the current golf course from Virginia Route 7, still needs to be resolved.
Currently several road easements serve the golf course – Parker Lane which is designated as VDOT road, F709, a frontage road and Alder Lane. Teetor said that various easements recorded in County deed books outline the current maintenance responsibilities of roads leading to the golf course. A meeting scheduled for later this week will bring Shenandoah Retreat Corporation representatives together with NVRPA representatives to discuss the issues.
Several Supervisors have asked for information regarding what the purchasing agency, the Civil War Trust, may elect to do if Clarke County decides not to join the NVRPA.
Teetor said that at this time the Civil War Trust has no “Plan “B” and is concerned that no entity other than Clarke County has the financial resources and infrastructure necessary to support this type of a regional park. Civil War Trust officials, Teetor said, believe that NVRPA is uniquely qualified to manage a Civil War battlefield park and are pleased that NVRPA is willing to expand their jurisdictional boundaries to include Clarke County.
NVRPA currently has six local jurisdictions; the City of Alexandria, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, Arlington County, Fairfax County and Loudoun County. If Clarke County elects to become a member of the NVRPA the County will gain to voting rights regarding NVRPA decisions.
During the meeting the Supervisors discussed how the County might address covering the $65K annual fee required for membership in the NVRPA. Meetings with various County boards and committees in the coming weeks will explore whether partial funding can be raised from other operational budgets, including the easement committee, however, Teetor said that although additional funding could be raised through private donation small grants from historic preservation groups, ongoing funding from such sources is unlikely be ongoing and that the County should be prepared to shoulder the burden of funding entirely.
“It is important to remember that the property is being purchased, protected, and turned into a beautiful historic and recreational park for the public and the citizens of Clarke County for a very nominal fee” Teetor told the Supervisors. ”Considering the expense of $5 per year per citizen that’s a bargain.”
Teetor recommended that the Supervisors hold at least two public Information meetings prior to the Board’s February work session. The first informational meeting will be held at the Blue Ridge Fire Hall in the Shenandoah Retreat on Thursday, January 26th at 7:00pm. The second informational meeting has yet to be scheduled.
The public is invited to attend both meetings.