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Port Royal boundary proposal draws critics and advocates

Posted on Friday, September 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm

MILFORD—A proposed boundary change for the Town of Port Royal drew sharp criticism as well as strong pleas for help during the Sept. 24  meeting of the Caroline County Board of Supervisors.

After a public hearing on the matter, the Board of Supervisors agreed to

meet with the Port Royal Town Council at 6 p.m. on Oct. 9 to revisit the issue and work out a compromise for all parties concerned. The meeting will be in the Caroline County Community Services Center.

The boundary has come up for discussion regularly at Board of Supervisor meetings and Port Royal meetings for nearly a year. However, Sept. 24 marked the first time a citizen has voiced strong opposition to it. Ellen Martin told the board she would be affected by the proposed boundary adjustment. Martin said that she and her husband

found it “very frustrating” that the county was doing something like this “behind our backs.” Martin concluded by saying, “Do not include me in something like this without my knowledge.”

Under the current proposal, the county, not the town, would collect real estate taxes from residents inside the expanded town boundaries.

An initial proposal to enlarge the town’s boundary adjustment would increase the town’s area from 78 acres to about 340 acres and from 126 residents to 160. It would also boost annual revenue from $17,000 to $87,000 through additional business licenses, sales taxes, and food/beverage taxes from the businesses now on the fringe of the town limits.

Increased revenue would allow the town to properly maintain its water system, turn back on the other half of its streetlights, and provide other needed town services. The town’s aging water system is in constant need of costly repairs, including replacement of pumps. The World War II era water tower is in danger of caving in and that would result in the Virginia Department of Health condemning the water system, town officials have noted.

The town applied for a federal grant to upgrade the water system this year, but was recently turned down.

In late 2012, the town council asked supervisors to allow the town to expand the boundary lines so the town can take in more tax revenue from Port Royal businesses. The two governing bodies met and discussed the matter in February. In March, supervisors voted unanimously to ask the county staff and attorney to prepare a boundary proposal for the town and county to consider. On Aug. 13, supervisors voted to put the boundary line adjustment on the agenda for a public hearing at the September meeting.

Three other speakers said they saw no reason for an expanded boundary to include farmland. C.B. Holloway, William Booker, and Derwin Booker were at the hearing on behalf of farmland owned in conjunction with Holloway, and Lucile Holloway Booker, the mother of the other two speakers. The main concern of three of these individuals was why town officials wanted to include farmland into the boundary adjustment. They maintained that agricultural land is of no benefit to the town, and carries with it a likelihood of double taxation for the landowners.

All three representatives concurred that Port Royal is in trouble, and does need

financial assistance. They also said the town could achieve this goal without folding farmland into its boundaries. They spoke against the proposed boundary lines as they had been submitted at the meeting, but were willing to change their stances if new lines are drawn that will exclude agricultural properties.

In other opposition, Jane Robinson presented the board with a petition signed by  residents whose homes were located along U.S. 17 who felt the same way as Holloway and the Bookers. These residents do not want their homes to be included within the town boundaries. They “urge the Board of Supervisors to move the Western Boundary line back toward 301 and to not include our properties.”

The town council presented a brief presentation during the opening of the public hearing. Port Royal Mayor Nancy Long said the boundary line adjustment is “essential for Port Royal, and beneficial to Caroline County.”

Long said the town needs a new water treatment system, new sidewalks, and road repairs. Long explained that when First Market Bank left Port Royal last year, it took with it an average of $7,000 in yearly revenue paid to the town. Long described the loss as “catastrophic” and asked the board and the other districts how they would manage a “sudden loss of 31.2 percent of their revenue” just as Port Royal had.

Long insisted throughout the town’s presentation that expanding the

boundaries would not only save Port Royal from ceasing to exist as a charted entity, but would also greatly benefit the county as well. Long argued that Caroline County will continue to benefit from retaining the historic town because it is a tourist attraction, and therefore an asset, and also because if the town’s revenue increases, according to Long, then they will be able stay self-sufficient and the county will not have to pay to take care of maintenance issues. Another added bonus is that Port Royal is eligible for many grants that are not available to the county.

After the presentation and introduction by the mayor, Supervisor Chairman Floyd Thomas declared the public hearing open. The first speaker was Herbert Collins, a resident of Caroline from the Bowling Green district. Collins was adamantly in favor of the boundary line adjustment, stating that Caroline County “owes its very existence to Port Royal.” Collins said that allowing for expansion would allow for more revenue, which will enable the town to remain as it is, preserving its rich historical background. “I urge you to keep the town the way it is, and the way it has been,” said Collins.

Several supporters of the proposed adjustment also spoke during the hearing. Carolyn Davis, who spoke on behalf of Cleo Coleman, the president of Historic Port Royal; and Tommy Morse, the owner of Horne’s Restaurant located just outside of the town’s boundaries, just to name a few. Both speakers were adamant that the town needs not only an upgraded water system, but also a steady source of revenue that

has room to expand in order for the town to survive.

A few county residents spoke against the proposed adjustment. The residents expressed concern that the county will ultimately lose money if Port Royal is still unable to sustain itself after the adjustment. Members of the town council also spoke at the hearing, attempting to assure residents that they want what is best for both town and county.