By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Feb. 23 — On Thursday, a crowd of about 30 gathered at the Mimslyn Inn for drinks and hor d’oeuvres to celebrate a new logo and branding campaign for the county that promotes the “Page Valley,” including the launch of a new website a year in the making at pagevalley.org
“We’re really proud of the product,” said Nina Fox, director of the Page County Economic Development and Tourism office. “There’s more there than meets the eye.”
The website directs tourists and locals alike to events and things to do in the area, as well as places to eat and drink, various lodging options, and even help planning a trip to the Page Valley. There’s even a section specifically dedicated to “Weddings”.
“People have been wondering why we have been spending so much on video, photography and videography…this is why,” Fox said of the tens of thousands of dollars spent on the project. A $90,000 grant the office received helped fund the creation of the website.
“This has been a huge undertaking,” said Helen Morton, a representative of national park concessionaire Delaware North and a member of the county’s “Tourism Committee” that recommends to the board of supervisors how nearly $1.5 million in annual Transiency Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds should be allocated.
“Everyone working on this not only has a passion, but it’s fun,” Morton added. “You all see it, but we have to get everybody out there seeing it. I think it showcases our area very well…and it’s always changing.”
Marketing efforts by the Economic Development and Tourism office will target densely-populated areas like those around both the nation’s capital and the state capital, according to both Fox and Morton.
Fox acknowledged that the office is still “working through some bugs” on the website and that “some content is still missing.” That’s where she asks the public to step in and help with great images and stories.
“We are only as good as the information we receive,” Fox said, regarding businesses and organizations. “If you reach out, we can feature you as well.”
“Images are the thing,” Morton said. “We need to keep it growing and keep it fresh.”
Fox gave a great deal of credit to her staff for carrying out the heavy lifting with the project — Communications and Marketing Coordinator Rebecca Armstrong and Economic Development and Tourism Specialist English Henry. The director also thanked District 2 Supervisor Allen Louderback for his support, as well as numerous Tourism Committee members in attendance, such as former District 3 Supervisor J.D. Cave, former Chamber of Commerce president Karen Riddle and cabin owner Randy Howan.
The new website contains at least 130 different pages, and it will continue to grow, according to Armstrong, who coordinates the content on the site. The longtime journalist also plans to publish stories about the people, business and culture of the area on the county’s website as well.
“If you have compelling stories about a business or property, please let me know,” Armstrong said. “You have to help me, help you promote the Page Valley.”
As Fox closed things out at the Mimslyn on Thursday, she told those in attendance to keep sharing ideas to help promote and grow the region we all now as the “Page Valley.”
“Think outside the box,” Fox said, “think of unique promotions.”
To submit an event or business for promotion through the Page County Economic Development office, contact them at the Page County Government Center, 103 S Court Street, Suite F, Luray, VA 22835; or give them a call at 540-743-1216. The office is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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It is exciting to see The Cabin Country of Page County Virginia, expanding daily. I see the new development at the Outlanders Campground. Which is now known as a New Name. Also in other areas.
My worries is Page County, Virginia gonna be able to keep our local grocery stores stocked. There many times you’ll see all the Toiletries, etc. cleaned out at our local stores.
Maybe this is gonna be good for our small local grocery sites and any place that sells goods.
Just a thought 😊
I would like to see how this fits into an economic development plan. Curiously, the one posted on the county website is from 2009. The Aug 2021 agenda for the EDA states that an economic development plan will be presented at that meeting. That meeting was cancelled and agendas and minutes for the rest of the year’s meetings are not posted. How does it make sense to rebrand and market without a plan? It has been suggested residents that core elements of the plan should be protecting the natural rest and quality of live, bringing living wage jobs to the county, and addressing the lack of affordable housing. For the March 13 Luray town council meeting, there are multiple requests to rezone residential, in many instances contributing to housing shortage or inappropriately adding population density.
I share many of the concerns you outlined in reference to housing affordability, and I have tried to be one of the strongest voices on Council regarding housing affordability. Council officially instructed the Planning Commission to draft a fair ordinance addressing how new short term rentals (STRS) affect the housing market pursuant to lively discussion at our last two meetings (my first meetings as a councilmember) and we are awaiting the results of that per the usual process of any code amendment regarding land use. In the meantime, we are including conditions in all STR SUP’s to minimize their impact on the market in the longterm. I am anxiously awaiting the completion of a formal STR rule which will allow us to be more strategic.
We are also drafting an ADU ordinance which will further address some of the excess demand for housing without creating new dense development that is out of place.
As for density, rezoning the currently underutilized small commercial property on Massanutten Avenue to allow for three modest apartments makes sense to me as a way to incrementally address some of the excess demand underlying the shortage without resorting to some kind of massively uncharacteristic development (which few want; indeed, this particular property is immediately adjacent to other similar apartments).
The other issue in question, the rezoning off of Ellis Drive, is a weird situation. Essentially, the applicant is seeking the R3 designation to allow for setbacks that would not be possible in R1/R2, but they are not seeking the rezoning to create denser housing. They have actually voluntarily submitted to a binding proffer such that nothing but single-family homes like those already in the neighborhood will be built. This was in response to the Planning Commission’s reservations about anything more.
Of course, we have not approved any of these projects yet, and I for one hope that all citizens with concerns will feel comfortable letting us know via a comment digitally or in person at the March 13 hearings; I am all the better when folks come out to share their views and keep me straight whenever I get off track.
I hope this is helpful and I certainly agree re: the rest of your comment! Please do not hesitate to reach out if I can ever help field any questions, comments, or concerns about the Town. Thank you for your engagement with these important issues!
Thank You For Caring About Our Community,
Housing affordability is a function of economics, and life isn’t ever going to be fair. If government ensures that there is basic infrastructure, and attracts good businesses, the market will take care of the rest. “Affordable housing” is just a way to permanently embed poverty in sections of town. Don’t believe it? Take a drive to Charlottesville. Sequential attempts to legislate “affordable housing” has created huge apartment blocks that increase traffic, overload schools, and will be tomorrow’s tenements. Single family homes are the ideal. How about we aim high, instead of low? In addition, what you could do is to share the statistics that make you think the City and County actually have a housing shortfall. Stop governing by anecdote. According to the US census the median gross rent in the county is just under $800. Take a drive around the county and count the vacant homes, there are dozens where granny has passed and the family hasn’t done anything with it. How can you incentivize them to put them on the market? There are plenty of Dem run cities in Virginia that push this narrative about affordability and end up as social disasters. This value of this place is in the farms, mountains, and the river. Set high standards and build the economy that can maintain them.
The ADU ordinance and rezoning like the three new market-rate apartments (not three apartment buildings, three small dwellings) mentioned are market based solutions that are freeing up the free market to meet demand by getting government out of the way. And they are NOT public “Affordable Housing” developments in any way, shape, or form. I am very much against plopping down a big dense development like anything you described where it doesn’t fit, and I flagged that fact in my earlier comment. At the same time, there is a data based consensus that there is a housing shortage in all parts of Virginia, rural, urban, and otherwise. Governor Youngkin is one of the main ones concerned: https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/news-releases/2022/november/name-942691-en.html
And I am definitely in agreement on incentivizing those who own vacant homes to rent/sell locally instead of letting them sit or selling to folks with deep pockets out of town (from places with a political bend that you probably wouldn’t agree with). I have brought this up to council, and if you have seen any good examples of places that have figured out good incentives or ideas of where I should be researching then it would make a world of difference.
I actually think we agree on a lot here, and it is on me if I didn’t embody my position more clearly originally.
Thank You For Your Engagement,
Thank you so much Alex. You are a huge credit to this community.
That means a great deal. I will certainly get some things wrong, but I’ll be earnestly trying my best these next few years regardless!
Thank You For Everything,
Thanks for responding. First of all, please do not govern by state-wide generalization, you serve in Page County – population 24,000. Statewide “data based consensus” is just generalization. You still haven’t cited statistics that justify ANY council involvement in housing here in Page or Luray (outside of a few zoning issues). This lack of analysis is something for the entire council to consider, not just yourself. What are the specific housing issues in our county? The short term rental “problem” is another anecdotal policy knee-jerk. VRBO is a dying concept, turns out people actually like hotels. If someone did some analysis, they might actually discover that the town and county have EXCESS housing. Such an understanding might actually encourage policy that would be good for Page, a county that has been trying to bring in tourists (and their dollars) since it was established. Finally, there is an aspect of judgement that is part of your comment about outsiders with deep pockets. First of all, it’s none of government’s business who buys property. I’d rather have people who will spend dollars to fix places up than poor drug dealers, or the vacant, decaying homes that dot the valley today. Good zoning regulations will invite use that makes where we live better, and not use it for things that northern Virginia no longer allows. By the way, people aren’t renting those houses because there is no market for them. Decide what kind of place you want Page to be and then encourage the kind of businesses that support that vision. Get those out-of-towners to build vineyards, grow farm markets, play in the river, and spend money. Right now Page is selling its soul. Resource rich, but cash poor. Poisoning the river with fertilizer and animal waste. Trucking in garbage from five different counties and burying it in the part of the valley where the first settlers lived. Supporting a “glamping” site that is currently a total eye-sore and has become high-density housing. This isn’t a partisan political issue, the council isn’t maintaining any standards at all. Anyway, sorry for the rant. Unless you guys do something, this county is on the same path as all of Northern Virginia, strip malls, parking lots, and traffic. Go tour Loudoun county (which was very rural when I grew up). As you are sitting in traffic on 15, you can look at what a lack of zoning discipline has done.
To be clear, none of the the things you mentioned in the latter part of your post had any Town Council input – they are under the county BOS’ jurisdiction. That includes the glamping site which I am no fan of and a landfill that I am very critical of. I would challenge you to name a single direct action of the current council that is promoting new “strip malls, parking lots, and traffic” within the town limits.
As far as data, my concern is based on interaction with voters door knocking across Luray as well as meetings with faith-based nonprofits like Page One and Arise and local folks in the real estate business. I am sorry that there is not some neat real-time data dashboard for Page County’s housing market for either of us to point to. I certainly would NOT point to dated census data that does not at all account for real-time changes in the market, including actual availability of units on the market. The assessment of the local people I have interacted may indeed be wrong and I am open to changing my position as a reasonable person in light of new data; I just think they would be the ones to know what they are talking about in real time.
I would like to learn more from you and talk further. I do not know if this comment section is the most helpful venue for doing so, so I will copy my email below in the interest of setting something up in good faith. I want to get it right for the people I represent, and your input can and will make me better prepared to do so:
I agree, the venue is poor…but it is public. I do appreciate the discussion – maybe one or two others might as well. Actually, I think the challenge for you is “what you are doing to prevent that future?” There is plenty of data out there. The town and county collect everything you need. I’ll bet a dollar that someone in the town government has already done the work, you just have to ask them for it. It is a mistake to believe that you can govern based on real-time changes. Good politics requires you to walk around and knock on doors and get feedback from your constituents. Good policy requires government responses that are based on analysis and consider long term consequences. The best action by government is usually no action. Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time to chat, and the enthusiasm that you bring to the position. Best of luck.
I find the lack of affordable housing very concerning. Housing prices in the county have gone up dramatically and there are very few rentals. Meanwhile, salaries have not kept pace. My understanding is that the apartment rentals by the airport were completely booked in days. As more properties that have been rentals are turned into B&Bs and short term rentals, there is less of the kind of properties that working people need. The county is turning into a center for B&Bs and vacation homes for the wealthy. That’s great from a real estate tax revenue but puts a strain on trying to develop a solid economy with living wage jobs.
I really do appreciate all of this; I will follow up on these lines of questions and be taking your points to heart. And I truly do hope you will not hesitate to reach out in the future if I am ever off base or I can be helpful in any way!
All The Best,
I favor letting the market determine what “affordable housing is.”
To lessen the price of homes you can only make them smaller or use inferior materials. If somebody can’t afford a house, then they can’t afford a house. We’re not here to feed these people. They need have either done better in school and gotten better jobs, or lie on a mortgage loan application.
We have enough permanent people and crime in Page County. When you lower the standards to achieve anything, IT’S LIKE FEEDING COCKROACHES. You get run over by more and more cockroaches until the government makes them a protected class.
Please note: there his a huge difference between a true B&B and an Air BnB. A true bed and breakfast is owned and lived in by an innkeeper who provides breakfast and very personalized service to their guests. The other just provides a place for people to just have an accommodation.