EDA, supervisors should include key comp plan objectives when considering future development


Dear Editor:

Two of the most fundamental objectives of the County’s “Comprehensive Plan” are to maintain the County’s “rural quality of life” and to “protect [our] natural and cultural assets.” But does our Economic Development Authority actually consider these when exploring potential business development here? The County’s response to a recent request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) reveals that the answer is clearly “no.”

This letter highlights two examples — one already approved, the other under study — that undermine those fundamental objectives. The bottom line here is to urge the EDA and Board of Supervisors to honor those objectives before pursuing or authorizing future development.

Here’s the context:

The FOIA Request

The FOIA request asked the County Government, “Whether and how EDA considers the environmental impact of projects of development that it considers or promotes.” The request explained that “environmental impact” includes the County’s central “vision for the future,” set forth in the Comprehensive Plan (which the Board of Supervisors adopted in April 2020):

“Page County’s vision for the future is to promote an environment conducive to maintaining a rural quality of life, which enhances tourism and agriculture and protects natural and cultural assets while encouraging compatible business and residential growth to provide a higher standard of living for its citizens…Recent growth trends have become cause for concern in Page County.”

The FOIA request also cited Section 1.9 of the Comprehensive Plan, which lists several criteria included in “what we value.” These include:

“…A pristine environment; Livable, attractive communities; The preservation of open space; …and an enduring inviting, rural character”

Two Recent Developments

Two recent developments — one actual, another potential — triggered this FOIA request. The first is the massive Luray RV Resort and Campground along Route 211 West. This $30 million project includes over 180 RV sites, plus scores more for glamping, tents, and cabins, plus tall garish water slides, and very controversial discharge of wastewater into the Shenandoah River. Our Board of Supervisors granted a special use permit for the project, with surprisingly few conditions and the state Department of Environmental Quality appears on the verge of granting a permit to allow the developer to discharge 50,000 gallons per day of treated effluent into the River.

The second potential development is a massive indoor/outdoor waterpark likely to inflict even more damage on the County, if it ever materializes. With approval from the Board of Supervisors, the EDA commissioned and received (May 2022) a feasibility study to evaluate the project and has since made it available to potential investors interested in hotel and resort developments in Page County. The primary site considered for that development is the Caverns County Club (golf course) just outside Luray town limits.

The EDA’s Feasibility Study

The scale and features of the potential waterpark are completely incompatible with a “rural quality of life” and “pristine environment.” The feasibility study says it is intended primarily for wealthier, out of town tourists, because few local residents can afford it. Yet the primary purpose of the EDA (according to its by-laws) is to “better the welfare of community citizens.” It is hard to see how this “destination resort” would achieve that purpose, given its proposed features:

  • Investment of up to $180 million, beginning in January 2025 (some six times more than the Luray RV Resort).
  • A 60,000 square foot indoor waterpark (with capacity for 1,700 people all at once) plus an outdoor play area.
  • An “upscale” 300-room hotel (capacity of 1,200 people), and “upscale” restaurant and wine bar.
  • Annual attendance of 275,000 to 320,000 people (that’s 11 to 13 times the County’s total population; on a daily basis, up to nearly 1,000 tourists).
  • An arcade, spa (facials, pedicures, massage), retail stores (selling T-shirts, swimsuits, souvenirs, and snacks), bowling, laser tag, virtual reality center, snowmobiling, and kiosks for face-painting and temporary tattoos.
  • 1.25 miles of riverfront, with kayaking, canoeing, zip lines, and ropes.
  • Cabins for bridal parties, ballroom, plus cabanas, conference center, and business center.
  • Prominent theme and branding, like a “children’s kingdom,” Caribbean or African theme, or “well known cartoon characters” (think Disney).
  • 400 to 600 parking spaces.
  • “Flagging” the resort with the likes of Waldorf Astoria, Ritz Carlton, Hilton, or Trump International.

And that is not all. The feasibility study expressly failed to consider the impact on the river, land, or people of hazardous materials or contaminants, such as asbestos, toxic waste, PCBs, and pesticides. It states that to encourage a developer to proceed, the project may need the County to grant tax abatements or funding (i.e., taxpayers should help pay for this). The property’s current zoning as “Woodland-Conservation”— designed to “perpetuate rural atmosphere, open space and scenic landscape” — would be eliminated. The project’s wide range of commercial features — restaurants, hotels, arcade, gift shops, salons, outdoor activities — is designed to capture tourist dollars all within its own confines, rather than among other local businesses.

A full copy of the feasibility study is available through this link:

Will the Board of Supervisors Honor its Own Comprehensive Plan?

Responding to the FOIA request, EDA acknowledged that it did not undertake any environmental study of the waterpark and has no documents showing that it even considered the project’s environmental impact.

The Board of Supervisors has ultimate authority over the EDA and ultimate authority to approve, deny, or impose conditions on future development in this County. A petition protesting the Luray RV Resort’s plan to discharge treated wastewater into the South Fork collected nearly 500 signatures; and given the nature and enormous scale of the proposed waterpark (with 1.25 miles of riverfront), even greater opposition is virtually inevitable.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line here is clear: Consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, local citizens want the Board of Supervisors to very carefully consider and control the nature, scale and impact of future development in this County, before its rural character, natural and cultural assets, and pristine environment are destroyed.

Skip Halpern ~ Luray, Va.


PageValleyNews.com offers an open forum for the public in its LETTERS section. We encourage letters of local interest by those who live in Page County, Va.; however, we welcome all letters on all subjects from all readers. PVN reserves the right to publish letters at its discretion.

SUBMIT LETTERS TO: publisher@pagevalleynews.com



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  1. Excellent and thorough! Will citizens be diligent and keep the EDA accountable or allow it to make commitments like it did in the mid 2000’s when it set taxpayers on the hook for huge outlays of $ due to less-than-above-board deals?

  2. Good analysis, but Comp.Plan’s aren’t codified, but are instead intended to be a general guide for policy and decision makers to consider. A good comp. plan is somewhat akin to a kaleidoscope, given their broad nature it’s not uncommon for two rational minded people to draw very different conclusions when the plan is cited to justify, or not justify, a specific proposal.

    Regardless of the nature of the request before an elected board, it’s my experience the best way to derail something you feel that is not compatible with the surrounding environs is to apply good old fashion political pressure, and if that doesn’t work, run for office!

  3. I suspect that like many County Governments, the Page County Board of Supervisors is enticed by the prospect of incoming tax revenue. Not unlike data centers, solar energy plants or any other “passive” revenue stream, the Luray RV Resort and Campground has potential that is just too good to pass up by the BOS. A never ending desire for increased revenue by County Governments enables the situation we are confronted with.

  4. The EDA is not transparent or responsive.As an example, it took multiple efforts to get agendas and minutes posted on the county website and they still are not posted in a timely manner that permits citizen engagement. Meetings are not videoed and are held during business hours. The same is true of the tourism council, responsible for the TOT budget.
    The BOS needs to act immediately to bring these entities under control and prevent widespread destruction of quality of life in the county.

  5. Additionally, the plan was developed by a company that specializes in water park creation. How was this vendor, who was paid $32k by the county to develop this proposal, selected? Why did the county specifically want a proposal focused on a water park, especially when there are many nearby?

  6. follow the $$$… does the EDA even own/control this property? or is there a local realtor involved who stands to make a bunch of money on this? imo,thats a pretty lousy way to spend 32k of the limited pool of taxpayer funds available to Page county. if this gets done,yes,it will create jobs…but at what ultimate cost? will the minor attractions such as the arcade and food places be separately owned by local folks? or will it be an all for one entity with most of the $$ generated going out of the county? and as others have said, how exactly does this huge resort concept even get mentioned in the same paragraph as ‘rural’? the entire idea is absurd,imo…and already 32 k in the red.

  7. What is crazy is that the golf course is for sale for $8.5M. the EDA is trying to sell the property they bought years ago for the Clover industrial park (a bust) for the 1M they paid for it. No one seems to think that is realistic. I don’t think they have shown good fiscal responsibility to be managing large sums of money. The lack of transparency is troubling.

  8. Even with all of this, the supervisors never bother to consider recreation of locals in any of this. Massive RV park with all kinds of fun things and activities. But if you’re local, no such thing as a day pass. You either have to pay to stay overnight in your own back yard, or stay home. Stop telling locals we should be happy this is the cabin capital, and how great a tourist place this is. Stop treating the visitors like locals and the locals like … intruders.

    • Please let the board of supervisors and the planning commission know your thoughts. Email the members and attend meetings and state your views.

  9. I cannot understand why the taxpayers/residents of Page County are at the mercy of the whims of the BOS. Why can’t projects that affect the whole community be put on a ballot? How is it possible that six people decide the future and look of the county where 24,000 people live.

    • These projects go through a process, first reviewed by the planning commission and then by the BOS. Please attend the BOS and PC meetings and state your views. Dates and times are posted on the county website. There is no economic development plan. We need to demand one.

  10. When I think of Page County, I think of scenic country roads, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Shenandoah River, agriculture, The Caverns, hiking, fishing, cabin rentals, wedding destinations, and small town shops. My family and I moved to Luray about 4 years ago. We were looking for a rural community in the valley and close to the mountains. Over the last 2-3 years, we have seen significant development within the county with what appears to be at haste. As a cabin owner, I can say that most of the people that come to visit our unique county, are here to explore Mother Nature and get away from the city and suburbia life. Tourism is a big industry for the county namely for people to enjoy the outdoors and Nature’s playground. I really hope and pray that our BOS will preserve the qualities that we all love about Page County! It would be a shame if our leadership is unable to initiate measures to restrict over development and implement long term planning measures that benefit and preserve our County’s unique setting. I would hate to see Page County succumb to the pressure of over development and urban sprawl. If Page County BOS and local leadership don’t step up to protect our County’s rural identity within the Northern Shenandoah Valley then Page County will be no different than our neighboring counties that have already given in to over development. Please do your part and keep an active voice in the community and push for new local policies to be implemented that will limit future housing and commercial developments in Page County. Let’s protect and preserve our identity within the Northern Shenandoah Valley as a rural and scenic destination through the implementation of proper county planning / management measures for the protection of its natural resources and control of the county’s growth rate.

    • Please go to the BOS meetings and Planning Commission meetings and email them. They are in the evenings and there are opportunities to speak on items whether they are on the agenda or not. The same is true for the EDA but their meetings are held during the day. Despite requests over the past 2 years, the county has no current economic plan. We need to demand one. This kind of overdevelopment can be stopped if county residents are active about it.

  11. Yes this overdevelopment to increase tax revenue for the Luray elite will provide increased opportunities for crime and groundwater pollution, pollution that could travel 9 miles underground. Then there’s the karst geology and seized farmland issues.

  12. When considering Economic Development the Page County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors must also consider the “who”. Who is going to develop broader businesses, construct workforce housing and import the workforce..cause very little of that exists now. Our children are leaving for opportunities outside of the valley, existing housing is bring converted to short term b n b’s..so there is little to choose from for those who are here and very little new planned. Speaking of planning..where is the long range plan? Jobs, housing–they go hand in hand. Would love to know what the long range vision is for Page County.

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