Port Royal seeks to expand boundary

PORT ROYAL – The Port Royal Town Council has asked the Caroline County Board of Supervisors to agree to a boundary change that would enable the river town to expand.

The town needs additional revenue, and without enlarging its boundary it is in danger of not being able to remain solvent, provide services to its citizens, or maintain its charter, the Town Council said in a letter to the board dated Dec. 20.

The council met in closed session Dec. 18 to draft the letter. Members of the council cited administrative reasons for closing their regular meeting, although Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act does not allow private meeting of governing bodies for such broad purposes.

In their letter and supporting documents the Town Council provided to the Board of Supervisors, councilors proposed extending the town limits to include businesses on U.S. 301 to the boundary of Fort A.P. Hill. The town would be enlarged to the west along U.S. 17 to Goldenvale Creek and east past Pine Hill Towing & Automotive. The proposed boundary to the north would be the Rappahannock River, and to the south, Fort A.P. Hill.

The proposed boundary change would grow the town’s area from 78 acres to 2,124 acres, much of it farm land, and from 126 residents to 160.

More importantly, the town’s annual revenues would increase from about $17,000 to $87,000.

“Unless the town is able to secure the business licenses, sales taxes, and food/beverage taxes for the businesses in these locations, it will be unable to continue to operate as an incorporated body,” the councilors wrote.

The boundary change would not affect real estate and personal property taxes that would continue to be paid to the county, they noted.

The package of documents included a petition signed by 10 business owners asking the Board of Supervisors to grant the boundary change.

The town’s request was prompted Union First Market Bank’s decision to close its Port Royal branch in May 2012. The bank accounted for about 30 percent of the town’s annual revenue.

The town has been forced to defer various maintenance and repairs in recent years, such as replacing broken sections of sidewalks and maintaining aging water lines. The town also is at risk of having its water system condemned by the state Health Department because its water tank has deteriorated beyond repair; replacing the system would cost an estimated $400,000, which does not include extensive replacement of water lines.

To  compensate for the loss of revenue from the bank, the town turned off half its street lights in 2012, increased water rates, and hired a new water operator at a lower cost.

The councilors requested a work session with the Board of Supervisors, who considered the request at their regular meeting on Tuesday evening of this week.

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 5:18 pm