Karst Workshop Scheduled

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will hold a Karst Workshop on September 7th & 8th.

What: Karst Workshop

When: September 7th & 8th, 9AM-4PM

Where: The Sharon Community Center (4017 Nicelytown Rd, Clifton Forge, VA 24422)

Who: Planners, resource managers, administrators, elected officials, and citizens are encouraged to attend.

The soluble limestone found in valleys and along mountain slopes in the Alleghany Highlands is home to a karst landscape with numerous sinkholes, sinking streams, springs and some of the largest caves in Virginia. These caves and the karst to which they belong are home to some of the rarest species on Earth and supply water for human and wildlife alike. At the same time, this karst landscape is sensitive to contamination and poses unique challenges for land development.

Participants will learn:

  • About karst phenomena and the underground life in the Alleghany Highlands,
  • The importance of these valuable yet extremely vulnerable resources,
  • Sensitivity of karst landscapes to contamination,
  • Development challenges that karst terrains pose, and
  • How we can use existing knowledge to live with karst and protect it.

Register HERE.

Blue Ridge Rising Action Plan

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation recently kicked off a new initiative, the Blue Ridge Rising Action Plan. The initiative views the Blue Ridge Parkway as a catalyst for promoting regional tourism and economic vitality, and aims to strengthen cross-jurisdictional relationships, foster economic development within the Blue Ridge Parkway gateway communities, and establish a unified regional voice. The Blue Ridge Parkway passes through both Augusta County and Rockbridge County in the CSPDC region.

Over the past several months, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation held county input sessions for each of the 29 counties in the Blue Ridge Parkway system, including Rockbridge and Augusta County, to gather feedback from stakeholders about the current relationship of the Parkway to economic development and tourism, and solicit input on potential improvements. Based on that feedback, the Parkway Foundation is now seeking review and feedback on the key takeaways from the county meetings, and will be holding regional input sessions.

The Blue Ridge Rising Action Plan input session for our region will be held on Tuesday, August 8 from 3-5pm at the Hampton Inn in Lexington. The meeting is drop-in style, so participants can come anytime during the two-hour window or stay for the entire time. There will also be an optional, informal social hour to meet other community leaders in our region after the 3-5pm event. For more information and to register for the upcoming session, click here.

Engineering and Design for the Lewis Street Transit Hub

Engineering and design activities are underway for the Lewis Street Transit Hub Rehabilitation Project. The Hub, pictured here, is getting a much-needed facelift! When complete, the site will feature new pavement, sidewalks, and a dedicated bus lane. The site will also feature safety improvements, such as improved lighting, and ADA-accessible walkways. CSPDC staff are working with engineering consultants from Kimley-Horn and Associates to finalize the design and construction plans for the Hub.

In June, staff reviewed the 60% design plans and participated in a Value-Engineering workshop hosted by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). The CSPDC presented the plans to the City of Staunton’s Historic Review Commission on Tuesday, July 25 to seek a Certificate of Appropriateness. The CSPDC will seek to incorporate design elements, where feasible, that are consistent with city features in the Historic District. Once the CSPDC receives a Certificate of Appropriateness, design plans will be finalized and submitted to the City for approval.

The engineering and design phase is moving along as expected and we hope to issue a contract for construction by fall, with construction to begin soon after.

Background: In March of 2022, the CSPDC was awarded a 5339 Bus and Bus Facilities Grant from the Federal Transit Administration to rehabilitate the lot.

Our Community Place Completes Two Affordable Housing Units

On June 23, the CSPDC joined Harrisonburg-based non-profit Our Community Place (OCP) to celebrate the official ribbon-cutting of Block House Apartments. The project is one of seven projects across the region to complete construction using funds from the PDC Housing Development Program, a grant program that provides gap funds to private and nonprofit housing developers.

OCP received $118,106 in grant funds through the PDC’s housing program, and used those funds along with local low-interest loans, donations, and in-kind and volunteer support to complete the project. The development provides two units of permanent supportive housing for Harrisonburg residents that have faced chronic housing insecurity. Each efficiency unit is complete with a mini-split air conditioner and new appliances, and community members came together to furnish and decorate each unit. The development also includes a shared shaded patio and garden beds.

At the ribbon cutting, CSPDC Housing Program Manager shared information about the PDC Housing Development Program and the successful partnership with OCP to bring the project to fruition. Harrisonburg City Councilmember and CSPDC Commissioner Laura Dent was also in attendance at the ribbon cutting, and spoke to the timeliness of this development to meet Harrisonburg’s housing needs. The event was also attended by the two residents that will be moving into the new units in July, who participated in the official ribbon cutting and allowed attendees to tour their new home.

Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Housing Summit Set

In partnership with the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge, Augusta Health, Valley Community Services Board, and Valley Homeless Connection, the CSPDC is pleased to announce the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro (SAW) Housing Summit. The event will be held on October 11th & 12th at the Holiday Inn & Conference Center in Staunton.

The SAW Housing  Summit is a result of collaborative work across numerous organizations in the SAW region since March 2020. This coalition of organizations joined together to disburse critical funding and resources to underserved communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those experiencing housing insecurity. As the short-term impacts of the pandemic began to lessen, the group turned their attention toward our region’s more persistent housing challenges that remained, from addressing homelessness to providing accessible housing to our local workforce. The Summit will culminate the work that has taken place and provide a forum for planning to address our regional housing issues into the future.

The Summit will take place over the course of a day and a half, and will incorporate a variety of speakers, facilitated discussions, and brainstorming sessions. It will conclude with an action-focused facilitated discussion on Day 2 to chart a path forward.

For more information on the SAW Housing Summit and to submit your e-mail for future correspondence, visit www.sawhousing.com.

Region 8 Council Approves Projects

At its meeting on July 25 at the Shihadeh Innovation Center in Winchester, the Region 8 Council approved two applications for funding. The Shenandoah Valley Center for Advanced Learning (SVCAL) requested $884,500 in GO Virginia funding to address skill and employment gaps in the manufacturing and transportation sectors in the region. Funds will be used to make significant updates to replace outdated training equipment and to support the addition of new programs specifically aviation technology, industrial maintenance, and heavy equipment. Local contributions for facility renovations and industry partner resources for work-based learning, internships, and apprenticeship training, along with the requested GO Virginia funds will be used to create a reimagined and state-of-the art regional training center at the Valley Technical and Career Center in Fishersville.

The Region 8 Council also approved a $100,000 Enhanced Capacity Building grant application for the Winchester Airport.  Funds will be used to analyze a 27-acre tract of land owned by the Winchester Regional Airport Authority and zoned for aeronautical use acre.  The land is capable of accommodating a wide range of aviation uses, including aircraft manufacturing and is the most valuable asset to the business development strategy of the airport.

The State GO Virginia Board will consider these two applications at its September meeting.

Other news and information about GO Virginia Region 8 is available at https://govirginiaregion8.org/


Southeast Crescent Regional Commission Established

Established as a federal-state partnership by the 2008 Farm Bill, Southeast Crescent Regional Commission (SCRC) was authorized to begin operating with the confirmation of a Federal Co-Chair in December 2021. The purpose of the SCRC is to build sustainable communities and promote economic growth across a seven- state region – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. SCRC will receive annual appropriations from Congress to invest in economic and infrastructure development projects that reduce the effects of persistent poverty, unemployment and outmigration.

The program mirrors the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).  The CSPDC will act as the local administrator of the program and provide technical assistance to the SCRC – eligible communities in our PDC:  Augusta, Staunton, Waynesboro, Rockingham, and Harrisonburg.  To learn more about SCRC please go to:  www.scrc.gov


Afton Express Featured on Virginia Public Radio

This past spring, Virginia Public Radio reached out to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and the CSPDC to develop a feature story on the Afton Express as part of a series about how CARES funds have been used across the Commonwealth.

RadioIQ reporter Mallory Noe-Payne traveled to Fishersville in April to ride the Afton Express, talk to staff, and interview passengers. Paula Melester, a Regional Planner for the CSPDC, joined Mallory on her round-trip ride over the mountain. Along the ride, several passengers shared their personal experiences with the Afton Express and how this service has contributed to the quality of their commute. Their stories are captured in this radio segment.

DRPT’s Director of Rail and Public Transportation, Jennifer DeBruhl is also interviewed. Funding for the Afton Express through FY23 was provided by DRPT through a demonstration grant, partially supported by CARES Act funds. Director DeBruhl says that using these funds to help launch the Afton Express was a “no brainer”, as the service connects workers in the Shenandoah Valley to the Hospital System at the University of Virginia. During the pandemic, the service offered a transportation option for essential workers.

The story aired on Virginia Public Radio on June 21 and was shared on the WVTF/RadioIQ website. You can read or listen to the story here.

CSPDC Receives Housing Grants

In July, the CSPDC received notice of two grant awards from Virginia Housing. Collectively, these grants bring $1,725,000 in housing funds to the region. The CSPDC received an allocation of $1.7 million in funds through Virginia Housing’s Sponsoring Partnerships & Revitalizing Communities (SPARC) Program, a special allocation of reduced rate funding which provides a 1% adjustment to interest rates below Virginia Housing’s prevailing home loan rates. These funds will be used to complement the CSPDC’s existing First Time Homebuyer Program, which provides down payment and closing cost assistance to income-qualified homebuyers at 80% AMI or below. The CSPDC is currently completing initial program development activities with Virginia Housing and will begin outreach to Virginia Housing approved lenders in the coming month.

Additionally, the CSPDC received a $15,000 Community Impact Grant to conduct a Preliminary Architecture Report for a key property in Downtown Monterey. The building is the former home of the Highland Recorder Newspaper, and the property owner is partnering with the CSPDC, Highland County EDA, and Monterey town officials to assess potential future residential use. The study will kick off in August, and its findings will be used to determine best next steps for future re-development of the site for housing opportunities.


The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced the $100,000 grant award to the CSPDC on June 15. The ARC READY LDD (Local Development District) program seeks to expand district staffing and capacity in order to grow support for eligible communities to identify, access, and implement monies available at the federal level. Funding sources include, but are not limited to, the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The CSPDC serves as the LDD for the following localities: Bath County, Highland County, Rockbridge County, City of Buena Vista, City of Lexington, and the towns of Glasgow, Goshen, and Monterey.

“This award will greatly assist the CSPDC in helping our localities identify and obtain federal funds that will be invaluable to our communities, business, and citizens as we recover from the lingering impacts of the pandemic,” stated David Blanchard, CSPDC chair and Highland County supervisor.

Learn more about the latest ARC awards HERE.