~ PVN staff report
LURAY, June 13 — The Luray Council voted unanimously on Monday night to donate a 0.37-acre parcel on Bixler’s Ferry Road to Living Legacy Luray to aid in the formation of a new park.
During its regular monthly meeting, the council held a public hearing on the land donation that drew only one speaker — Audre King, the organizer behind Living Legacy and the West Luray Rec Center, where the park will be located.
“When we started, we went on faith,” King said of the non-profit. “We want to thank the Town for all the support you have given us. This is not costing [the Town] and it will make a world of difference.”
The parcel, which sits about 500 feet north of West Main Street, will become part of the Andrew Jackson School Memorial Park, which could include a greenhouse, container gardens, picnic pavilion, amphitheater, picnic area, playground, walking trail, green space, a fenced-in basketball court and a memorial wall. The Virginia Tech Community Design Assistance Center completed renderings late last year showing how all of these amenities could flow together to form a community park behind the Rec Center on West Main Street.
Fundraising efforts have surpassed six digits, with total costs estimated to be as much as $250,000 or more. The project could receive as much as $42,000 through an application to the Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund (VBAF) for a grant to assess the property at 630 West Main Street for environmental issues associated with possible historic dumping at the site. At its Sept. 13, 2021 meeting, the Luray Council voted unanimously to have the Town act as the agent for the application. If the grant is awarded, the Town will simply act as a conduit for those state funds in order to meet certain requirements of the application.
The non-profit has also worked with Racey Engineering to create plans for moving soil and creating a sloping amphitheater behind the existing building. The playground and basketball court will sit on the far side of an open green space from the amphitheater, and a walking trail will encompass the entire area, as well as an additional trail on the east side of the park.
One of the key features along the paved entrance from Main Street will be a memorial stone wall containing the names of students who attended the Andrew Jackson School, which served black children in Luray through the 1950s.
“Black children living in Luray were educated in a one-room schoolhouse prior to 1924. It serves as part of the foundation of the current structure. The black citizens of Luray raised the bulk of the funds in order to construct the present building, a Rosenwald school…named for the former Chairman of Sears, Julius Rosenwald, who partnered with Booker T. Washington to provide schoolhouses throughout the South for black children. This building is one of over 5,000 built in the early 20th century,” reads a history of the West Luray Rec Center on the website.
The former school named for a black businessman and shopkeeper sat dormant after school integration, but served several purposes over the years, including a night club. Then in 2017, Luray native and local pastor King purchased the property, which he has transformed from a cozy home for pigeons into a comforting and nurturing environment for local children.
But it’s the building’s legacy that will be the focus for the memorial park and a planned museum at the site.
“Until the late 1950s black children living in Luray could not graduate high school at the Andrew Jackson School. They had to attend one of several boarding schools for black children,” a historical summary on the website states. “Some students from Luray went to a boarding school in Manassas, Virginia. Others went to D.C., New Jersey, New York and other distant locations. It took determination and resolve of both students and parents for black children to graduate from high school. This is the legacy we wish to memorialize and remember.”
A Deed of Gift and Plat have been prepared to facilitate the donation. The plat identifies utility and stormwater easements on the parcel that would be reserved by the Town.
In other business at its June 13 meeting, the Luray Council took the following actions:
• Held a public hearing on the Town’s FY22-23 budget. There were no speakers. Luray’s proposed $13.8-million budget increases spending by nearly $2.5 million over the current budget, or 22 percent. The spending plan for the next fiscal year (which begins July 1) is comprised of $7.4 million for the General Fund, $2.5 million from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, $400,000 for the Community Development Block Grant for Luray Meadows Apartments, $1.6 million for the Water Fund and $1.8 million for the Sewer Fund. The tax rate on real estate will rise just over a penny to $0.28 per $100 of assed value, while personal property will stand at $0.62. Meals and beverage taxes will still be levied at 4 percent, but the transient occupancy tax increased to 6 percent and the cigarette tax rose to 20 cents per pack. The council is expected to adopt the FY22-23 budget at its June 28 work session. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
• Unanimously adopted a Code Amendment to establish Town Code Section 58-21 Public Urination/Defecation, effective immediately. The State Code does not provide regulations for such acts, but extends prosecution to “Indecent Exposure”. However, local courts are hesitant to consider this charge due to the intent of exposure. The new Town Code states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to urinate or defecate within public view upon any street, highway, sidewalk, or in a park or public place or area where the public gathers or has access, other than in facilities designed for such purposes. Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250.”
• Unanimously approved funding $11,500 toward electrical service improvements at the Mechanic Street parking lot and at Ruffner Plaza, as well as the acquisition of two generators, utilizing federal ARPA allocations. The current electrical panel and systems at these locations require upgrades for continued operation by food vendors, bands and game equipment connected during Town events.
• Unanimously adopted a Proclamation of Recognition for David Sedwick, who is retiring after nearly 31 years of service at the Town’s water and wastewater treatment plants. The council also unanimously agreed to allow Sedwick to keep his town-issued cell phone at his request. The Town purchased the iPhone 13 Pro Max for $99.99.
• Unanimously agreed to recommend Andy Caviness to the judge of the Page County Circuit Court for re-appointment to the Luray Board of Zoning Appeal (BZA) to fill a five-year term ending June 30, 2027.
• Discussed the potential installation of a self-service parking payment system at Lake Arrowhead for out-of-town visitors. Council has discussed options to address increased usage and increased costs at the park. Installation of a payment system could require a parking payment fee at the kiosk. The Police Department could utilize the mobile app system to confirm which vehicles have paid through entry of their license plate number. The Town could issue a window sticker or mirror hangar to identify a Town resident’s vehicle. The cost of the kiosk is currently $4,000, plus an additional $500 for the mobile access for the Police Department. Funding for this effort was not included in the FY 2022-2023 budget, so staff recommends use of ARPA funding.
To view the AGENDA for the June 13 Luray Council meeting
and supporting documents, click HERE.