Council briefed on Vinyard Station project, adopts new water rates

DEBBIE ADAMS

Vinton Town Council was briefed on the long-anticipated Vinyard Station project at their meeting on November 5 by Assistant Town Manager/Economic Development Director Pete Peters. Vinyard Station is the name given to the redevelopment of the former Vinton Motors property located at the corner of Pollard Street and Washington Avenue in downtown Vinton.

“It is my privilege this evening to report that the necessary agreements to move this project towards its redevelopment as Vinyard Station are substantially complete,” Peters said.

He proceeded to present to council some history of the project, outlined the involvement of the town necessary to secure the redevelopment, and described the steps remaining to move the projects towards a formal closing by the developer.

A Powerpoint presentation to Vinton Town Council on the Vinyard Station redevelopment project on November 5 included renderings of design concepts being considered.

The main step remaining is for council to adopt a resolution authorizing a Performance Agreement with Vinyard Station LLC at the next council meeting on November 19.

Peters presented the draft Performance Agreement which will be between the Economic Development Authority (EDA) of Roanoke County, the Town of Vinton, and Vinyard Station LLC.

A primary function of the Performance Incentive is to establish and partially fund the addition of centralized parking infrastructure for the downtown business district. The parking and pedestrian access designed for the site will support both Vinyard Station and other existing businesses in the downtown area.

The agreement is valued at up to $750,000 over a 10-year period and is intended to encourage the redevelopment of the former Vinton Motors into a mixed-use commercial and retail development.

Terms of the Performance Agreement include the Town appropriating to the EDA an initial cash payment of $250,000 (which will come from fund balance) towards the purchase of eight vacant parcels to establish parking and pedestrian access to the site.

The town also agrees to appropriate to the EDA an additional payment of $50,000 annually for a period of 10 years for the balance of the Incentive Grant, capped at $750,000. This incentive package will close the funding gap and allow the project to be completed.

The Performance Agreement requires the developer to achieve various pre-determined investment goals and construction deadlines, to achieve and maintain minimum employment thresholds, and to maintain ownership of the property to receive the annual incentive payments.

The Town of Vinton is in discussions with Roanoke County for a separate funding agreement in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help support the Vinyard Station Incentive Grant, based on a portion of the net revenue the County expects to receive as a result of the project.

The Board of Supervisors was scheduled to consider the MOU which would assist the town with the annual incentive payment at a meeting on November 6. This would be similar to an agreement between the town and county for the acquisition of property and construction of the Vinton Library.

The Vinyard Station project will generate revenues for the Town through the collection of Prepared Food and Beverage Tax, Sales Tax, Personal Property Tax, Business License Tax, and Real Estate Tax. The County will benefit through Sales, Personal Property, and Real Estate taxes.

“The total private investment for the project is estimated to be just over $2.7 million and is expected to generate in excess of $130,000 annually in new net revenues for the Town and County and a minimum of 15 new jobs,” Peters told council.

Those financials include estimates from only the one initial lease that has been secured for the property—a restaurant—Peters emphasized. He said the project will likely result in “much greater positive economic impact, as the additional 7,000 square feet of leasable space is under contract.”

The private investment will create nearly 12,000 square feet of move-in ready leasable space and will serve as a cornerstone for downtown Vinton. The primary anchor tenant has agreed to terms for a 10-year lease, occupying just over one-third of the total space available. That tenant, described as a local ownership group in business for over 40 years, has committed over $500,000 of the total project investment and anticipates staffing over 15 employees.

Peters recognized Vinyard Station LLC developer Dale Wilkinson for “his vision, patience, and professional manner” in his approach to the project. He also thanked Vinton Motors owner Billy Vinyard, who unfortunately passed away in September before the project came to fruition.

“Without Billy’s care and love for the town and trust in Dale, this project would not be a reality today,” Peters said.

In his Powerpoint presentation, Peters noted that the tax assessment for the property in 2017 was just $481,500; the anticipated assessment once renovations are complete will be $1.85 million. The town and county anticipate a five-and a half year return on the investment and $690,000 in net revenue over 10 years.

There have been several obstacles to overcome in redeveloping the property which housed Vinton Motors for 70 years, closing in 2009.

Wilkinson anticipates the project will be complete in the fall of 2020. Demolition has been underway since July of this year.

In other business, council approved an ordinance which has been under discussion for many months, including at a public hearing, to revise the Water and Wastewater Fees and Charges Schedule.

Increases have become necessary to fund Capital Investment Projects including three critical needs described by Finance Director Anne Cantrell: upgraded meters, an upgrade to a sewer pump station, and a new well site to be brought online allowing for an underperforming well site to be taken offline. Major projects for water and sewer infrastructure, equipment needs, and buildings/services add up to $8.3 million. The rate increases will help finance the projects with a portion also financed through debt issuance.

Council was briefed by attorney Michael Lockaby on regulations and policy pertaining to small cell facilities, franchise agreements for those facilities, and zoning and site plan requirements pertaining to wireless telecommunication facilities and public right-of-way user fees. This is in response to a request from Cox Communications requesting a franchise for the use of the town’s public rights-of-way and on town-owned facilities such as streetlights and traffic signal poles.

The first step in a complicated new procedure is to advertise the Cox proposal and ask for competing franchise proposals. Council directed staff to advertise for competing sealed proposals for small cells in the rights-of-way, with proposals to be unsealed at the December 3 council meeting.

Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce President Justin Davison presented the Chamber’s Quarterly Report to council—a glowing report on growing membership, expanding media connections, and increased attendance at 14 Chamber-sponsored events, including this year’s Fall Festival/Oktoberfest celebration.

The Chamber will partner with the town for the State of the Town address scheduled for December 4 at the Vinton War Memorial and wind up the year with the annual Vinton Christmas Parade on December 5.

Council also adopted a resolution appropriating funds in the amount of $1.4 million for the Walnut Avenue Bicycle and Pedestrians Accommodations Project which runs from 5th Street to Town West Corporate limits.

Funding has been secured through the Roanoke Valley Transportation Policy Organization’s Regional Surface Transportation Program/Set-Aside Transportation Block Grant Program—a reimbursable grant. It will be fully funded by the grant, with the exception of town staff hours used in administering the grant. The town awarded the engineering services contract for the project to Mattern & Craig at their October 15 meeting.

UPDATE: In their meeting on November 6, the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Town of Vinton which allows the town to be reimbursed in the amount of up to $200,000 (up to $40,000 per year for five years) to offset the costs of the Performance Agreement with Vinyard Station. The $40,000 each year will come from tax revenues to the county generated by the development.

That leaves the town’s part of the incentive as $550,000 with the initial $250,000 from fund balance, and the remaining $300,000 incrementally built into the budget. The town is just finishing up payments to the county of $60,000 per year for an agreement signed for the Vinton Library property, making the new payments effectively budget neutral.

Pete Peters commented on the generosity of the county in agreeing to a five-year MOU for reimbursement when they generally enter into such agreements in one-year increments. The agreement poses little risk to the county since they will not be required to reimburse the town if no revenue is generated by Vinyard Station.

The first payment from the county to the town is anticipated to be in January 2022 after Vinyard Station has been in operation for an entire year.

 

 

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