Clarke Development

This “sold” sign is on a piece of property next to the Handy Mart in Clarke County’s Waterloo Commercial District. County supervisors may partially discount sewer hookup fees this year to encourage development in Waterloo.

BERRYVILLE — Clarke County is proposing an economic incentive to get businesses to locate in the Waterloo commercial district.

Sewer availability fees would be partially waived for firms committing to occupy vacant properties there. That could save them thousands of dollars.

The proposal was presented during a Clarke County Board of Supervisors work session on Monday. The supervisors put off voting on it until their regular monthly meeting next Tuesday. Nobody voiced any objections, however, and the supervisors indicated they probably will approve it.

“It’s a good initiative,” said board Chairman David Weiss, the Buckmarsh District supervisor.

Waterloo surrounds the busy intersection of Lord Fairfax Highway (U.S. 340) and John Mosby Highway (U.S. 50), about two miles southwest of Boyce. Businesses already there include two convenience stores, a farm market, restaurants and a vehicle repair shop.

Properties in Waterloo are zoned Highway Commercial (CH) and have public water/sewer service provided by the Clarke County Sanitary Authority (CCSA).

The Waterloo Area Plan, part of the Clarke County Comprehensive Plan, calls for strategies to be developed to promote new business development in the area and make water and sewer connections more affordable for new businesses.

County Administrator Chris Boies described the incentive proposal as “a (sewer) hookup availability fee holiday for 2021.”

Water and sewer availability fees are charged to new businesses to help cover costs for installing the utilities. Sewer fees range from $24,300 for businesses using 1-300 gallons of water to flush sewage each day to $2,025,000 for businesses using 22,501-25,000 gallons daily, a chart furnished to the supervisors shows.

Property owners have told county officials the fees “have been a deterrent” in efforts to develop their land, Boies said.

The supervisors get a third of the money collected from sewer availability fees in Waterloo as repayment for previous investments by the county to the sanitary authority’s sewer system. The county doesn’t budget for that revenue. None has been collected for quite a few years because of a lack of new connections to the system.

Developers of new commercial buildings constructed on properties in Waterloo zoned CH and served by the CCSA would be eligible to apply for the incentive. A zoning permit application, site plan and relevant fees would have to be submitted to the county’s planning and zoning office by Dec. 31. Developers would have one year to actually make the sewer connections.

The supervisors would review applications on a case-by-case basis and waive a third of the availability fee for each new qualifying structure, the proposal shows. The developer of the building to use 1-300 gallons of sewer capacity per day would end up paying $16,198.38, for example, while the developer of the building to use roughly 25,000 gallons would end up paying $1,349,865. Those would be savings of $8,101.62 and $675,135, respectively.

“We’d reserve the right to deny an application if we think something strange is going on,” Boies said. An example might be if they think a developer isn’t telling the truth about their plans.

Under the proposal, the supervisors would allocate $100,000 — the amount that the CCSA still owes for the sewer system improvements — toward sewer fee waivers, Boies said. Once that amount has been exceeded, either by one or multiple applications, the supervisors would have to approve supplemental funding for waivers, he said.

Millwood District Supervisor Terri Catlett asked if businesses already in Waterloo could benefit from the incentive. Boies emphasize it’s intended only for new development.

Weiss said, though, he thinks “we should work out a deal” somehow for any existing businesses not already hooked into the sewer system.

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

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