Elkton Investor Outlines Proposals
Posted: May 19, 2016
By CALEB M. SOPTELEAN — BYRD NEWSPAPERS
— Pham Chopra spoke before a crowd of nearly 100 people on Tuesday at Elkton Area Community Center about his plans for the area.
Although he offered no new specifics at the meeting, hosted by the East Rockingham Business Council, Chopra introduced several members of his volunteer management team.
Chopra, who purchased some 16 area properties last year for more than $4.7 million, gave some of his personal history and noted his plans for converting Conrad’s Store into Conrad’s Pioneer Museum, renovating the Elkton Theatre, opening a restaurant at the former Kite Mansion and an art gallery somewhere in town, and building a greenway from behind the Kite Mansion to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.
Chopra also has made plans to open a transitional-living center for people with substance abuse problems and victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“One step at a time,” he said. “I show you the tip of the iceberg,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to overpromise and underdeliver.
He introduced several members of his management team, including Fred Oesch of Oesch Environmental Design of Schuyler, Steve Gyurisin, a land planner from Winchester, and Jack Rose, a Realtor from Harrisonburg.
Gyurisin said he worked on a preannexation study in Shenandoah in 1979 and on a stormwater plan for Triad Engineering for Elkton’s Main Street project in the early 2000s.
Chopra also said that Steve Vento, former president of Angler Development LLC of Warrenton, and Rich Hine, a contractor who worked on the Preston Lake development at U.S. 33 and Massanetta Springs Road, are involved in the volunteer group.
Part of the plan is to tag all the trees on Chopra’s properties, which encompass some 700 acres, to preserve them.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do, but we’re not going to do clear-cutting,” Oesch said.
Oesch said he’s working on a master plan and will put together a design “charette” by summer, which will bring in additional professionals to help design the master plan. A charette is a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.
“This ‘charette’ is evolving,” said J.W. Gordon, a spokesman for Chopra’s nonprofit Akal Institute.
Chopra, who answered some questions from the audience, said he’s not doing “an experiment in a model community” and is not building only a transitional-housing facility.
A man who said he’s visited Luray’s Hawksbill Greenway some 200 times asked about the plans for a greenway.
“The amount of work to keep the greenway going is unreal. Where is the money going to come from to keep it going?” he asked.
“A lot of it is volunteers,” said Gordon, who’s on a task force that is working on the greenway.
“The artsy-fartsy crowd has saved the town of Luray,” Elkton resident Larry Aldrich said. “Do I dare say that Luray is more of a destination these days than Elkton? The same thing can happen to Elkton, if we allow it.”
Mayor Wayne Printz noted that the town retained 140 acres along Elk Run Creek when it sold 189 acres of former Kite property to Chopra last year. The 140 acres would be used in the creation of the greenway, although some private property could be included.
“We have the resources. We’re getting people involved. We have all of the components,” Printz said.
Individual task forces have been formed involving the Elkton Theatre, Conrad’s Pioneer Museum, a greenway and an expanded sewer treatment plant.
Following the meeting, Gordon said those interested in serving on a task force can email him at email@example.com
Contact Caleb Soptelean at firstname.lastname@example.org