By Randy Arrington
LURAY, July 12 — Will it encourage more long board usage, or will it reenforce the feeling that they don’t belong? The “Greenway Skate Day” planned for next weekend is a bit of an experiment put forth by a divided council on the issue of allowing skateboarding on a town treasure that was initially built for pedestrians.
“I’m not in favor of skateboarding on the greenway,” Councilman Jerry Schiro stated during a discussion at Monday night’s council meeting. Schiro has often clearly stated that he believes the Luray-Hawksbill Greeneway was initially intended as a pedestrian-only path focused on foot traffic, and he wants to see it stay that way. Many residents agree.
However, over the years, the use of the greenway has steadily increased, and along with that increased traffic came more diversity — bikes, roller skates, roller blades, scooters…and yes, skateboards. Although officially banned, skateboarders would often be seen along the linear park, receiving mixed reviews. Some felt they were unsafe among pedestrians, especially the elderly, while others felt they were no more dangerous that an inexperienced bicyclist.
During several discussions since the issue blew up online earlier this spring, some council members clearly want to give skateboarders the opportunity to prove that they belong and believe that they have the same right to use the public park as anyone else, but others see potential safety issues as well as (real and/or perceived) concerns over vandalism and loitering.
“I am in favor of it,” said Councilman Joey Sours, who crafted the idea for a “Skate Day” to test the interest of the public in actually overturning current policy and allowing skateboards on the greenway. Council discussions have explored allowing the practice in certain areas, allowing it along the entire greenway, or not allowing it at all on the paved walkway.
“I think it will be a good, fun, safe day for everyone,” Sours said of the event.
“People obviously want it,” Councilman Ron Vickers added.
“To me, it’s not if something is wanted,” Schiro responded, “it’s, if we should allow it.”
The vote passed, 5-1, to schedule a “Greenway Skate Day” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 at the Luray-Hawksbill Greenway.
Councilman Schiro was the lone dissenting vote.
In other business at its July 11 meeting, the Luray Council took the following actions:
• Unanimously approved an amendment to the budget to account for $2.54 million in federal revenue from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
• Unanimously approved a special use permit (SUP) application submitted by Donald Vogt and Gail Nettleton to construct a residential, single-family dwelling on the 6.65-acre parcel zoned Business (B-1) at the western end of Woodland Park Drive. The Luray Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on June 15 and unanimously recommended approval. There were no speakers at Monday’s public hearing before council.
• Unanimously approved a special use permit (SUP) application submitted by Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative to construct an electric payment kiosk in the parking lot zoned Limited Industrial across from their building on Mechanic Street. The Luray Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on June 13 and unanimously recommended approval. There were no speakers at Monday’s public hearing before council.
• Unanimously approved a special use permit (SUP) application submitted by Robert Falter to construct a residential, single-family dwelling on a 0.10-acre parcel at 55 East Main St. zoned Business (B-1). The Luray Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on June 15 and unanimously recommended approval. There were no speakers at Monday’s public hearing before council.
• Unanimously approved a special use permit (SUP) application submitted by Wendy Holtzman to operate a lodging house at 314 Mechanic Street in the High Density Residential (R-3) District. Staff recommended the following conditions — no more than six guests at one time; off-street parking required for all guests; one sign allowed not exceeding four square feet; meals may only be provided for guests renting rooms; owner must obtain a business license from the Town; transient occupancy tax and meals tax will be collected and remitted to the Town. The Luray Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on June 15 and unanimously recommended approval. There were no speakers at Monday’s public hearing before council. Councilman Ligon Webb added a clause that stated the permit does not transfer with the sale of the property.
• Unanimously approved the Preliminary and Final Plat application received from Baker Development Partnership, LLC for the subdivision of parcels 42A17-1-167, 42A8-A-1, 42A8-A-3, and 42A8-A-1D into 68 developable lots for the Luray Landing Planned Neighborhood Subdivision. The Luray Planning Commission reviewed the Subdivision Plat on June 15 and unanimously recommended approval.
• Unanimously approved the Preliminary and Final Plat application received from John Holtzman LLC for the subdivision of Parcels 42A4-A-34 and 42A4-A-35 into two lots maintaining existing dwellings with one lot available for new development at 109 Mechanic Street and 134 N. Hawksbill St. The Luray Planning Commission reviewed the Subdivision Plats on June 15 and unanimously recommended approval.
• Unanimously approved the re-adoption of the Virginia State Code, which is done annually to pick up new laws passed in the most recent General Assembly session and signed by the Governor that go into affect on July 1.
• Unanimously approved a parade permit submitted by the Page County Agricultural and Industrial Fair to celebrate the fair’s 70th anniversary down Main Street — from Broad Street to Blue Bell Avenue — beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 22. The council also unanimously agreed to donate (or waive) fees associated with the parade — an estimated cost of $2,200 to the Luray Police Department for safety and traffic control.
• Unanimously approved a request by Grand Central Station LLC to waive parking requirements associated with planned improvements at 15 Campbell Street (the Warehouse Art Gallery) that will include a restaurant in a portion of the gallery and offices upstairs.
• Unanimously approved a funding request of $13,900 from the Luray-Page County Airport Authority. The funds will go toward design plans for a new terminal planned at the Luray Airport, and it supplements the Town’s previous FY22 contribution of $36,100 in order to match the county’s total contribution of $50,000.
• Unanimously approved an employee drug screening policy change that allows for continued random testing for marijuana, but with no penalties for marijuana found in the employee’s system unless it is believed that the employee was impaired while on the job. Councilman Ligon Webb pushed for a change to the policy in light of Virginia’s new legal leniency toward marijuana possession and usage. The Town’s implementation of the Random Employee Drug Screening program begins this month through a $300 annual contract with Valley Health to conduct quarterly testing among four randomly selected employees. The Town’s Personnel Policy provides for Drug and Alcohol Testing, adding to the Town’s compliance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and best practices with Virginia Risk Sharing Association, as well as helping obtain the best possible renewal rates on health and liability insurance and insurability.