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February 18, 2013

$3.4-million Marshall project gets tax boost

Land Planning Design Associates
This illustration shows Main Street at Frost Avenue, with new brick crosswalks, lamps, sidewalks and trees — and without overhead utility lines.
Land Planning Design Associates
This drawing outlines the improvements slated at Main Street and Winchester Road.
This is probably the last chance we’ll ever have realize a plan that was done 25 years ago.
— Duke Yowell, retired banker
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Downtown Marshall’s $3.4-million makeover should begin late this year, thanks to a Fauquier board of supervisors decision last week.

After two public hearings, the board last Thursday voted, 3-1, to impose a special tax in Marshall to help pay for the project.

Property owners downtown will have 2 cents added to their county real estate tax levy (97 cents this year). They already pay an extra 0.5-cent, per $100 assessed value, for streetlights in the village.

The extra tax — about $50 annually on $250,000 worth of real estate — will remain in effect for 12 to 14 years. It will repay a zero-interest loan of $643,000 from county government.

That 20-percent “local match” will unlock $2.7 million in state and federal transportation grants for the project that will include:

• New sidewalks and crosswalks along Main Street from just east of Winchester Road (Route 17) to just west of Frost Avenue near the IGA.

• New sidewalks and crosswalks on Winchester Road.

• Moving electrical, phone and cable TV lines underground, eliminating utility poles.

• New street trees, lamps, benches and landscaping.

Redevelopment’s supporters dominated public hearings Jan. 10 and Feb. 14 before the supervisors.

But, opponents also got the board’s attention.

“Nobody’s bringing up the main issue: Can these homeowners afford this?” Mary Jane Stringfellow said at last week’s hearing.

Ms. Stringfellow said her family of three, which has health issues and no health insurance, must live on income of $44,000 a year. Each monthly mortgage payment takes $1,200.

“Fifty dollars is a lot to me,” Ms. Stringfellow said. “I can’t go hungry . . . . I’m on the very edge of giving my home up. I cannot afford” the higher tax.

Several other speakers agreed with her.

The project’s sponsor, Supervisor Peter Schwartz (Marshall District) said: “I am mindful that for some, this is a hardship. I don’t take that lightly.”

Chester Stribling (Lee District), who voted for the tax hike, said he will work with Mr. Schwartz to set up a fund that helps taxpayers who can’t afford the additional levy.

Retired banker and lifelong Marshall resident Duke Yowell said he has worked toward improving Main Street for quarter century.

But, until recently, village boosters could find no way to get the work moving.

Mr. Yowell called the prospect a shame “if we have to give back $2.7 million so another town could use it.

“This is probably the last chance we’ll ever have realize a plan that was done 25 years ago.”

Sarah Atkins, a financial adviser in Marshall, gave the board 57 letters from village taxpayers who support the 2-cent special levy.

Marshall physician Norris Royston said he went door-to-door with a packet about the project and encountered four people with reservations. Three of those later expressed their support, Dr. Royston said.

He gave the board letters from 41 supporters.

Thursday’s vote means the project can move ahead.

Originally, Mr. Schwartz and other members of the Marshall Business & Residents Association planned for cash “proffers” from developers to help pay for Main Street improvements.

But, a couple of major developments, with the potential to help, fell victim to the recession.

That meant organizers had to find another way to fund the local match.

Mr. Schwartz called Mr. Yowell and others who started planning decades ago “people who just wanted the best for our town.”

The supervisor admitted he would prefer the project cover Marshall “from one end to the other. But, if we don’t start somewhere, we will never finish . . . . I think this is an important step for Marshall.”

Chris Granger (Center District) cast the third vote for the new tax.

Lee Sherbeyn (Cedar Run District) voted against it.

Holder Trumbo (Scott District), whose family owns the Marshall IGA, abstained.

Marshall Main Street Packet by Fauquier Now

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