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Market Village gets go-ahead

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — With no active objections from its neighbors, the 9,000-square-foot Market Village will move ahead soon.

Carroll representatives have attempted to contact one of those neighbors, AmerLink, about the new construction planned at the Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Market, but they have heard nothing back, County Administrator Gary Larrowe told members of the Industrial Development Authority, who control the property, at their May 5 meeting.

The development will add eight retail spaces, meant to appeal to tourists and travelers and bring in more shoppers and revenue at the farmers’ market. Additional restrooms are also part of the project.

County officials sent a certified letter about the project to AmerLink. The receipt for the certified letter came back to the county offices, but no response from AmerLink, Larrowe told the IDA.

The intent of the letter was to put AmerLink — which occupies a model log home on the farmers’ market property, along with the Blue Ridge Plateau Visitors’ Center — “on notice” that the plan for the new shops will move ahead, the county administrator said.

Even the developer of the Market Village, Marshall Lineberry of Weststar Investments, offered to meet with AmerLink officials and talk things over, Larrowe added. He sent an e-mail to AmerLink officials advising them of the offer.

(Weststar Investments has also expressed an interest in developing more shops, a micro-business park, a hotel — and, with Mended Wings Productions, the 600-seat Mayberry Opry Theater — on county land across the road from the farmers’ market.)

Larrowe shared copies of some of the correspondence with the authority members.

A letter dated April 15 to AmerLink President John Barth expressed the county officials’ excitement about the retail shops project moving forward.

The effort will be undertaken by Weststar Investments under a performance agreement with the IDA, the letter said. The contract documents were still in negotiations when the letter was sent.

“As you requested, the allowed retail uses in the [Market Village] building will be restricted and neither businesses engaged in the sale of housing, real estate or log home sales and/or construction will be allowed,” Larrowe wrote to AmerLink.

These restrictions will continue as long as the farmers’ market and the log home sales business are on the property.

“Although the exact uses in the village cannot be prearranged — market forces will take care of that — it is presently intended that retail uses such as a restaurant, wine/cheese shop, ice cream parlor, bakery, antique and/or furniture store are possibilities,” the letter said.

County officials hope for a groundbreaking soon and that the shops will be finished by fall.

“We think that this addition to the farmer’s market property will be a great addition and will increase traffic on the property, which I feel certain will increase traffic and sales in your facilityee” Larrowe wrote.

“I think we’ve made every reasonable attempt to get a solidified answer,” he told the IDA.

What does County Attorney Jim Cornwell think? Chairman Richard Slate asked.

"He actually helped draft this letter and he said that was the only thing [required] — give them a notice, get the receipt back and move forwardee” Larrowe answered.

Several authority members wondered out loud what else could be done to get an answer from AmerLink.

“Jim said go ahead, then move forward,” noted authority member Clinton Willie.

“We made every effort,” agreed authority member Barry Hicks.

IDA members sounded frustrated with AmerLink and owner Richard Spoor.

"He come here with big ideas and big hopes and built us up and built us up, and he let us down awful hard and here comes Marshall and he's done ordered a building," said Willie. "One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so you got this one caught... We got Marshallee"

Though authority members were willing to pass a motion letting Weststar Investments proceed with the Market Village, Larrowe reminded the members they had already passed a motion to that effect last meeting.

Now, it’s time to move forward with the project, he advised the IDA members.