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Citizens, business owner voice support of Port Royal boundary expansion

Posted on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 6:19 pm

PORT ROYAL—Citizens and a business owner voiced support of Port Royal’s proposed boundary line expansion during a public hearing on Sept. 17.

The Port Royal Town Council conducted a public hearing on the boundary line prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting.  If approved in its current state, the proposal for the boundary line will expand the size of the town from 78 acres to somewhere close to 534 acres, and will include the intersection of U.S. 17 and U.S. 301.

With these areas included within the town’s boundaries, some additional businesses will add to the revenue of the town, including Horne’s and River Haven. It is estimated that including these, and other businesses along U.S. 17 and U.S. 301, will generate approximately $60,000 more per year in revenue for the town through additional business licenses, sales taxes, and food/beverage taxes from the businesses now on the fringe of the town limits. At present, the town generates around $18,000 in revenue in one year.

When Union First Market Bank left in May 2012, it cut the town’s revenue by about $8,000. The Town of Port Royal had to replace one of its two municipal water pumps and the control system this summer at a cost of $7,695. This follows over $11,000 in repairs to the water pipes last year. The water system is 70 years old.

The town applied for a grant this year to be able to replace the entire system, but the application was denied. The town just does not have enough revenue to maintain a brand new system.

Port Royal Mayor Nancy Long began the hearing by giving a brief introduction of the boundary line adjustment, and why town officials believe it to be necessary. Long said that up until now the town of Port Royal has “just been surviving,” and that when the bank left, the town lost 30 percent of its income.

After this decrease in revenue, Long explained, the town council began talking about ways to grow and get new businesses in the town. Long noted that when she first moved to the county years ago, she spoke with visitors who automatically assumed that parts of U.S. 17 and 301 were already a part of Port Royal due to proximity, and they couldn’t understand why they were not.

Long noted that port Royal is an isolated area, separated from their sister town of Bowling Green. The council is concerned that without the boundary line adjustment, and the expected increase revenue, the town will simply cease to exist as a chartered entity.

“We want to continue to be here and be a community together,” Long said. After much consideration, talking, and idea bouncing with the planning commission, it was thought that the easiest, least expensive way for this to happen is through a boundary line adjustment.

The adjustment would have to be done through an agreement between Caroline County and the town of Port Royal. If the proposed agreement is accepted and passed by both parties, Long explained, then the agreement will be taken to court where a judge will sign off on the agreement.

Long described the proposed agreement as a “win-win for both parties.” Two major adjustments were made for the final boundary line proposal; the wildlife refuge was taken out, and the planning council did not approve the division of two large fields.

After the introduction, Long opened the floor to citizens. Speaking first was Sonny Edwards, a Caroline resident whose main concern was whether the agreement would include an ordinance against hunting. Edwards’ family owns property, which they hunt on regularly and he said he was concerned that the boundary line adjustment would negatively influence their hunting rights. After finding out that the boundary line adjustment would not affect his family’s hunting rights, he said he fully supported the proposal.

Cleo Coleman, the president of Historic Port Royal, was next to address the council. She said that as a student of history, she had been against changing the boundary lines in order to preserve the historical accuracy of the town, said that times change, and she has since changed her mind and now fully supports the boundary line adjustment for three reasons: the extension is “logical and a rational response,” due to human resources and expanding financial needs; expansion is necessary to enable the town to continue as a chartered territory; and because of the concept of economic dependency.

Coleman stated that she believed $70,000 for the project is “peanuts” if compared to finding out that an area needs three times that much to maintain or fix structural issues within that area. She is concerned that if the town ceases to exist, that “the county will have to pay the expenses,” such as fixing sidewalks, trimming back trees, and maintaining the water systems, she noted.

Morgan Zwicker of Pinewood Automotive, an active business in Port Royal, was present at the hearing to support the boundary line adjustment. Zwicker stated that while he was a resident of King George, his business is located in Port Royal. Zwicker spoke of the “tremendous history” in Port Royal, and how he would “hate to see it go away” because of a loss in revenue.

Zwicker made a suggestion that the county have a car count study done from VDOT, in order to accurately estimate the number of cars that pass through Port Royal regularly. He concluded by stating that as a business owner, he “would like to see money my business generates go to the town of Port Royal.” Zwicker also noted that he had spoken with several other business owners within the town, and they share similar views on the matter.

Rob Robinson was the final citizen to address the council concerning the boundary line adjustment. Robinson’s only concern was that the description of the hearing did not accurately explain the adjustment as it is shown on the map for the proposal.

Caroline County Supervisor Calvin Taylor, an outspoken supporter of the boundary line adjustment of Port Royal, was also present during the hearing. After each citizen had been given an opportunity to give their opinions on the boundary line proposal, Taylor also addressed the council, and attending citizens. “I would not have allowed this meeting to go on without being here,” he said. “I fully support the boundary line adjustment.”

Taylor also voiced concerns that without an increase in revenue to the town, it will cease to exist. He “believes the citizens of Port Royal deserve the assistance from the county,” despite the fact that Port Royal is located away from the main part of the county, he said. Taylor said a lot of their tax dollars go to things in other parts of the county that they don’t see, or have the opportunity to use. Taylor told the council that he would do his “best to support Port Royal because of your location.”

Taylor addressed the fact that some landowners have had, and still have, some concerns about the boundary line adjustment. He assured the council that he asked the Board of supervisors to try to address these concerns. Taylor then implored the council, and members of the town, to come before the Board of supervisors as a united front to ask for “what is already yours” and is not “a handout” from the county.

The boundary line adjustment will “afford you the opportunity to grow,” Taylor said. “If you grow, we grow as a county. This is a no-lose situation.” He concluded by affirming that if the town of Port Royal, or any other part of the county has a need, “it is Caroline County’s responsibility to address those need