By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Jan. 19 — Page County’s Economic Development and Tourism Department is planning to pursue a hotel feasibility study to help entice an up-scale investment near the Luray Caverns Golf Course.
On Tuesday night, Nina Fox, director of the department, told supervisors that she was targeting a “destination-style hotel” near the golf course in the vein of the Greenbriar or The Homestead, although “maybe not on that scale.” A key function of such a facility, according to District 2 supervisor Allen Louderback, would be to keep tourists to Page County in the county.
“I know there have been some events where they had to go outside the area for lodging,” Louderback said. “There were some weddings where they had to bus some people in staying in other counties.”
In an unanimous vote, the Page County Board of Supervisors agreed to allocate $30,000 in Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds to commission a Market Feasibility and Financial Analysis Study for a Hotel/Resort in Page County.
“What this study’s primary purpose is going to be is a leveraging tool for large-scale investors to look at our area with some genuine data and go to their investors,” Fox said. “It will help us to market ourselves better.”
The dedication of TOT dollars to the project was supported by the newly formed Page County Tourism Council, who voted in favor of such action. The committee asked the board of supervisors to pay half of the project’s cost out of the general fund, but the group was willing to fully fund the project with TOT funds.
According to Fox’s presentation, the proposed study will focus on the area of the Luray Caverns Golf Course. A proposal was submitted to the county by Hotel and Leisure Advisors (H&LA) to provide the analysis and study.
“The objective of this engagement is to estimate the market feasibility of the development of a proposed hotel or resort in Page County that would capture demand from the booming wedding industry and other tourist attractions within the county, such as the Shenandoah National Park and Luray Caverns,” reads the proposal from H&LA. “It is our understanding that the estimate of feasibility will be used for decision-making purposes in determining whether to develop the hotel or resort and attract a developer to the subject site. We will produce a detailed financial analysis for the project and estimate its probable operating performance for an 11-year holding period. We are available to prepare a report for either a proposed hotel or a proposed destination resort…For the destination resort option, we will consider various recreational amenities typical of a destination resort inclusive of an indoor waterpark.”
Fox estimated the current pool of TOT funds at $90,000 with two more allocations planned to various community organizations or projects before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.
In other business at its Jan. 18 meeting, the Page County Board of Supervisors took the following actions:
• Unanimously voted to approve the appropriation of requested funds totaling $843,159 which included state and federal grants, a loan for landfill equipment and other monies received by the county through the Page County Sheriff’s Office, the Battle Creek Landfill, the Clerk of the Court and the state comp board. The majority of the funds went to the Sheriff’s Office ($623,228) through eight separate grants. A public hearing was held prior to the vote, but speakers addressed the board.
• Appointed Clay Gaunt (Dist. 1), Ronald Comer (Dist. 5), Patrick Racey (Alternate) and Roger Houser (Alternate) to the Building Code Appeals Board for a four-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2022 and running through Dec. 31, 2025. All four members previously served on the board with their terms ending Dec. 31, 2021.
• Appointed Board Chairman Keith Weakley as the chief elected official from the county to serve on the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Area Consortium, and Nina Fox as the county’s designee to the consortium.
• Made no changes to the current make-up of the Page County Planning Commission after discussion about the number of members, previous issues with getting quorums at meetings, and what it would mean to actually amend the county code. Current commission chairman Jared Burner addressed the board of supervisors and stated it would be okay to remain with five members for now, but more help was needed with research on complex issues currently before them. The county code allows for 10 members of the planning commission (two from each magisterial district), but supervisors have whittled the number down to five by not making new appointments as members step down. The debate lead to discussion about the need for hiring a county planner — something the board seemed interested in moving forward with.
• During supervisor’s time, District 5 supervisor Jeff Vaughan raised the issue of the recent disbandment of the Shenandoah Rescue Squad and an attempt by the fire company there to form an LLC and take over ownership of the property and equipment. Vaughan clearly stated that he wanted to see the county move forward “to acquire that facility” to ensure use by the county’s paid EMS staff because he believes the county will ultimately be fully responsible for providing 24/7 emergency services. “Let’s face it…at the end of the day, it’s going to happen countywide because the thing called volunteers is a thing of the past. It takes time, it takes training and you can’t just pull ’em off a tree limb. They just aren’t making volunteers anymore.”
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The taxpayers are funding a promotional campaign to enrich the people who own land around the Caverns Golf Course?