BERRYVILLE — Town Council members are more zealous than Clarke County supervisors about a proposed joint highway project aimed at making more land available to try and attract new businesses, officials realize.
Developing the Southeast Collector will require cooperation on both sides. Town and county officials plan to ponder the project among themselves before deciding whether to have further joint conversations about it.
Having the road is necessary, Berryville officials maintain, if the Clarke County Business Park is ever to be expanded. The complex basically is full and unable to make room for any companies that eventually might want to locate there.
A joint study revealed the best way to build the collector is to extend Jack Enders Boulevard — the lone road running into the business park — through the Smallwood family property and connecting it with Smallwood Lane near a railroad crossing in the county along Berryville's southeast side.
Traffic flow in and around Berryville would improve, and Craig’s Run and surrounding wetlands would be least disturbed, the study prepared by Prime AE Group of Baltimore showed. However, that method is the most expensive option at roughly $9.6 million.
It would be "a long process" to build the collector, said Christy Dunkle, assistant town manager of community development and operations. Not just in terms of construction, she said, but also in terms of related tasks such as acquiring the Smallwood property, making relevant zoning changes, extending infrastructure such as water and sewer lines and obtaining help in paying costs.
Clarke County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Weiss estimated it would take at least 10 years.
"We need to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs," Town Manager Keith Dalton recently told Berryville Town Council's Streets and Utilities Committee. Still, he said he's concerned that being a long-term project, "we're just going to sit on it."
Dalton said he and other town staff members working on the project "want to make sure we're doing what the council wants us doing." Along that line, he said, "we need some marching orders."
Mayor Jay Arnold called for the council to discuss the project during an upcoming work session; the target date is Nov. 2. Estimating it will take at least 90 minutes, he said the matter is too complicated to discuss during a regular monthly meeting.
Weiss, the Buckmarsh District supervisor, said the board will discuss it during a work session on Oct. 12.
"I've only heard positive things from town council members" about the project, Councilwoman Kara Rodriguez said during the committee meeting. "But I think our supervisor friends are not as keen on it at the moment."
Her perception was accurate.
"Overall, the board of supervisors is less enthusiastic than the town council is," Weiss said in a phone interview on Monday. "I think that's ... due to the large cost of the project."
"There is no money in the (county's) budget this fiscal year," he said, to put toward preliminary work for the Southeast Collector.
The most likely funding source, he indicated, would be Virginia Department of Transportation cost-sharing programs. It's been hard for Clarke to get applications to such programs approved, he said, due to the county's small population of about 14,000. The state prefers for its money to go toward projects benefiting the most people.
Weiss said he personally is not in favor of the collector right now because he believes other Berryville-area properties are suitable for economic development and should be considered first. Ones he mentioned include sites off U.S. 340 (Lord Fairfax Highway) and South Church Street, on Berryville's south side, and near Martin's and Va. 7 (Harry Byrd Highway), on the town's north side.
But "the board of supervisors hasn't taken an official position" on the issue, he emphasized.
Councilwoman Diane Harrison said she thinks the council should create a timeline for "things we need to start on" toward developing the collector to show the supervisors as part of efforts to gain their support.