City, SU poised to continue alliance

Posted: September 18, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — City Council appears ready to update and expand its pledge to partner with Shenandoah University on projects.

By a 6-1 vote at Tuesday night’s work session, the councilors advanced a resolution to approve a new memorandum of understanding with the university. The agreement would replace a pact the parties reached in 2009.

The proposed agreement calls for the city and SU to:

Continue improvements along the U.S. 50 corridor, known as the “eastern gateway” into the City of Winchester, while providing a defined, attractive perimeter for Shenandoah University’s campus.

Renovate and explore programming of the Winchester McCormac Outdoor Amphitheater in Jim Barnett Park.

Improve athletic facilities including, but not limited to, those in Jim Barnett Park.

Explore additional student housing, classrooms and/or performance spaces in the downtown area.

Explore opportunities for partnerships in career training, especially within the health care field.

Explore other options related to Winchester’s economic development and the strategic growth of Shenandoah University.

Councilor John Tagnesi asked if Shenandoah could be brought in on the city’s emergency communications upgrade project.

Lynn Miller, Winchester’s emergency management coordinator, said he’s in discussions with the university and Winchester Medical Center about making their systems interoperable with the city’s.

City officials also clarified that the eastern gateway project envisioned would involve potential beautification efforts in the corridor. The government would not pay any costs associated with the proposed closure of a short section of Millwood Avenue and the street alterations necessary to mitigate that change.

Only Vice President Milt McInturff voted against forwarding the memorandum to the Oct. 8 council meeting. His issue wasn’t one of content, but procedure.

“I will not support the process that’s gotten this to where it is today,” he said. “I read in The Winchester Star about something we haven’t discussed yet.

“If this body is going to enter into an agreement, I think we should’ve had more advance notice.”

Councilor Evan Clark suggested that the panel could “fine-tune” its communication.

However, President John Willingham responded that such matters are brought to the body at work sessions. If more discussion time is needed, the councilors can table an item.

“This is how the process works,” he said.

City Manager Dale Iman said items to be discussed are sent to councilors on Thursday, the same time they’re made available to the public. He added that on June 28, Aug. 8 and Aug. 23, councilors were notified that an agreement with SU was being negotiated.

In other business, the councilors took a step toward a potential decision to allow red-light cameras to be installed at two intersections in the city.

The panel received more information from Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher regarding the matter, which was tabled in July. It potentially could be up for a vote on Oct. 8.

Sanzenbacher provided more city crash data, mostly related to the two intersections in question — Pleasant Valley Road’s junctions with Jubal Early Drive and Berryville Avenue. He also affirmed that a contractor for the photo-monitoring system would be selected via the city’s normal procurement process.

Violators caught on camera would face a $50 civil fine but would not have any points added to their driving record.

“I see this as another tool for law enforcement to help stop violators,” said Vice-Mayor Les Veach, an insurance agent. “It only takes one to kill or injure someone.”

The councilors also voted 7-0 to advance an ordinance authorizing the acquisition of property necessary for the Monticello Street extension project by means including but not limited to condemnation.

Jim Deskins, the city’s economic redevelopment director, said issues exist for only one of six parcels the city needs to purchase — a 5.1-acre lot owned by Ashworth Bros.

The street would divide the parcel and preclude it from being developed, but it could be rezoned and combined with another parcel for potential reuse, Deskins said. Advancing the ordinance authorizing property acquisition would allow such conversations to begin.

The councilors also:

Voted 7-0 to advance a resolution authorizing the initiation of an amendment to the Winchester Zoning Ordinance to allow home businesses to operate out of a garage or similar detached structure.

Voted 7-0 to advance a resolution authorizing the application for and acceptance of a $291,780 State Homeland Security Program grant for communications equipment.

Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were President John Willingham, Mayor Elizabeth Minor, Vice President Milt McInturff, Vice-Mayor Les Veach and councilors Evan Clark, John Hill, John Tagnesi and Ben Weber. Councilor Jeffrey Buettner was absent.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com