By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Oct. 11 — After several months of discussion, the Luray Council this week adopted a Code Amendment to establish regulations on blighted properties and derelict buildings. The unanimous vote of support by council aligned with many citizens desire to clean up blighted areas in the tourist town.
“I think we’ve put a lot of time into this and given it a lot of sound thought,” Councilman Jerry Schiro said prior to the vote on Tuesday night.
The amendment to Chapter 26 — Buildings and Building Regulations of the Town Code — and to Article IX of Chapter 78, will allow the Town to establish a program to identify qualifying properties; notify the property owner of the status; require an abatement plan; and provide action for the Town to pursue for non-compliance. Penalties could include a $500 fine for each month of non-compliance up to an amount equivalent of the cost of demolition.
Town Manager Steve Burke has stated that due to associated costs ranging up to $50,000 or more, the program may only target a couple of properties per year. The motion also gave a directive for “the Town Manager and Town Treasurer to include a budget line item and funding for blighted properties and derelict buildings abatement in the FY 2023-2024 Budget.”
“It’s a tool in our tool box,” said Mayor Jerry Dofflemyer, who has had particular interest in this issue.
“It is intended for the worst of the worst,” Burke said at Council’s work session earlier this month.
Under the policy, a property owner would have 90 days upon notification to submit an abatement plan for improving the property, or face potential fines.
The town attorney advised the Council that a public hearing was not required prior to the vote.
In other business at its Oct. 11 meeting, the Luray Council also:
• Unanimously approved a request from Ramsey Inc. for a boundary line adjustment with the county to bring 5.61 acres at Fairview Estates that includes 14 residential lots into Town limits so the developer can build single-family homes (as opposed to duplexes as earlier reported) and take advantage of in-town water and sewer rates and fees. Both the Council and the Page County Board of Supervisors have held public hearings on the issue, but the county opted to wait for the Town’s vote. Concerns over road maintenance were addressed. The developer has stated that a HOA would fund future road maintenance. The Town Attorney drafted an amendment to the Pre-Annexation Agreement to clarify the use of Ellis Drive and to extend the agreement date to January 1, 2023.
• Unanimously approved the issuance of a $750,000 tax-exempt construction loan from Blue Ridge Bank. The motion also allocated up to $550,000 in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding for the remote read water meter program. Only a portion of the General Obligation Bond is earmarked to complete the water meter project, while the remainder of the borrowing limit may be unused. A public hearing was held on the bond issue prior to discussion and the vote, with no speakers. Payments on the loan will be interest-only for the first year, with a fixed rate of 5.89 percent thereafter, and payable over 11 years. Following discussion of the issue, Councilman Ligon Webb recommended borrowing less than the amount initially sought and paying more down on the project through the use of ARPA funds, thus reducing interest payments and the time required to pay the debt off. Council agreed with Webb’s motion and increased the ARPA allocation.
• Unanimously approved a request for a Special Use Permit by Harbor Holding Company to operate a lodging house at 303 Luray Avenue, zoned High-Density Residential (R-4). A lodging house is commonly defined as a residential building, other than a hotel, motel or bed-and-breakfast home, where lodging is provided for compensation on a regular basis, pursuant to previous arrangements, but which is not open to the public or transient guests, for no longer than thirty (30) consecutive days. Meals may be provided to the residents in a central location; however, no provisions shall be made for cooking in individual rooms or units. The maximum number of guests shall be two per bedroom with on-site parking for all guests. Other requirements being attached to the permit include a maximum of six guests, off-street parking, one sign not to exceed four feet square, meals only for guests, business license, transient occupancy tax, meals tax, and the permit shall not transfer upon sale. The Luray Planning Commission held a public hearing on Sept. 14 and unanimously recommended approval. The Council held a public hearing prior to discussion and the vote, with no speakers.
• Unanimously approved the preliminary and final plat application received from Tom Shoemaker and Jim Vaughan for the subdivision of Parcel 42A12-A-101 into 12 single-family dwelling lots with a residue parcel along Reservoir Avenue/Fairview Road. The applicants previously submitted a Sketch Plat that proposed subdivision of 36 single-family dwelling lots on Parcel 42A12-A-101 and 42-A-26. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the Preliminary and Final Plat applications at their September 14, 2022 meeting.
• Unanimously selected Racey Engineering to perform construction engineering services for the Memorial Drive Corridor Improvements Project and the Luray Landing Sewer Pump Station #1 Project through the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission’s On-Call Consulting Program. Construction engineering services for the Memorial Drive project are $78,600, while the Luray Landing pump station will be $285,920. In addition, the Town will incur a NSVRC Program Fee of $2,500 for each project.
• Unanimously adopted a Proclamation of Appreciation for George Comer’s recent donation of photographs, a civil war era sword, a civil war era spur, an antique mercury glass vase, a DH Henkel Stonyman Stoneware Jar, and a George Pollack Skyland bench. The Town has shared the photos on social media, and intends to develop a display of the other items in the lobby of Town Hall and add the bench to the display at the Train Depot.
• Unanimously approved authorization of ARPA funding for the following projects:
— $5,000 for the acquisition of a display case for the Town Hall lobby to display photographs and items of historical significance to Luray;
— Up to $17,000 for the upfitting of four police cruisers previously authorized through ARPA funding with an antenna radar system and passenger cages;
— $36,240.50 for the acquisition of a spare influent pump for the Wastewater Treatment Plant to be available should the existing 15-year-old pumps fail;
— $34,000 for security cameras at Dean Park and Lake Arrowhead to replace an old system;
— $9,000 for a storage building at the Water Treatment Plant for lawn maintenance equipment currently stored outdoors and additional space for storage of spare motors, pumps, and parts;
— $1,000 to acquire new receipt printers for the payment windows and one replacement printer for Treasurer’s Office.