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Business park: A good idea*

You might notice the asterisk. More on that in a moment.

Before we get there, let me just say – oh, yeah, this business park is no question a good idea with great potential to add to the economic base for Waynesboro.

I’ve been saying that since my own campaign for City Council in 2008, when I included in my platform a proposal to have the city work with the current property owners of Waynesboro Opportunity Park to develop the location as a center for industry and technology.

Located right at the Exit 96 interchange accessing Interstate 64, the business park is located 22 miles from the Fontaine Research Park at the University of Virginia – less than 25 minutes driving time from a spur to local economic development.

The location has immense potential for Waynesboro.

Now to the asterisk – we don’t need to pay $3.5 million for the land to make this work.

OK. so we’re being told that we do, that there’s no way the current owners can come up with the millions needed to fully develop and market the property on their own, but that the city can because it can access grant monies that are available to government entities.

I don’t buy that. Not that I’m saying it would be easy, but … this deal can and should be done as a public-private partnership, with a private developer partnering with the city, the state and the federal government to put the land in the best possible position for future development.

A big chunk of the $6 million-plus that I’ve been told would be needed to complete infrastructure work at the location would go into the road network. The city has been working on plans for the extension of Shenandoah Village Drive to connect Rosser Avenue to Delphine Avenue in recent years. No matter who owns the property, that’s going to be key to opening up development potential, and no matter who owns the property, it’s going to require state and federal assistance to get done.

Water and sewer are two other big chunks. This is an area where the city and the developer will have to take the lead, but we see this be the case every day on development projects big and small.

The final big chunk – marketing. The city doesn’t have to own the property to have its economic-development office market it. The city, the Shenandoah Valley Partnership and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership all already aggressively market on behalf of private developers on a regular basis.

The deal being considered by City Council tonight makes sense in every respect aside from the $3.5 million purchase price that would be borne by city taxpayers. Whether we, the city, own the property or not, we’re going to be on the hook for water and sewer, for working with the state and the federal government on the extension of Shenandoah Village Drive and for the marketing.

Putting another $3.5 million onto that bottom line doesn’t make bottom-line sense.

Column by Chris Graham


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