Archive for: January 23rd, 2018

Local Government
‘To liaison or not to liaison’ – how often is really necessary?
January 23, 2018

WC Board Chairman Tony Carter, right, wondered how often the liaison committee needs to meet. Since they have to be at each one too, Town Manager Joe Waltz and County Administrator Doug Stanley may have been wondering the same thing.

Near the end of the Thursday evening, January 18, Front Royal-Warren County Liaison Committee Meeting, county Board of Supervisors Chairman Tony Carter reintroduced the subject of how often such face-to-face sit downs between two members of the town and county boards was really necessary. The topic may have been on Carter’s mind as the newly-elected board chairman, who along with the mayor is a permanent member of the liaison committee. The other committee member from each elected body rotates through the membership.

Other regular attendees include the county administrator and town manager, as well as the board secretary of whichever body’s turn it is to host the meetings. Other staff, usually department heads attend if there is an agenda item that involves their particular expertise. On January 18, town Finance Director B.J. Wilson was present to address cost variables on several agenda items.

Currently the meetings occur on the third Thursday every other month. If memory serves me, they have occurred as often as monthly and as infrequently as quarterly. Mayor Hollis Tharpe supported the current two-month intervals. He noted that council members seemed to appreciate the chance for regular interactions with the county’s other elected municipal board and the opportunity for updates on specific issues of mutual interest.

Carter observed that the town and county staffs were in constant contact on those issues where town and county interests intersect and were available to their respective elected boards for briefings on such matters. The county administrator and town manager also give monthly updates to the other municipal board on current business on their side of the municipal aisle.

Carter later told Royal Examiner he thought current relations between the town and county governments were going pretty well, perhaps explaining his thought that quarterly or even bi-annual liaison meetings might suffice. There is also the opportunity for specially-called full joint council-supervisors meetings as has occurred on the occasion of high-interest issues popping up.

That occurred last year when questions arose about costs and how the town-county Economic Development Authority’s workforce housing project was being managed. Another such full joint meeting occurred several years ago when a friendly annexation was on the table for the land on which the Front Royal Limited Partnership’s 604-acre, potential 818-unit residential development was under consideration along the town-county boundary.

No resolution on a future schedule was reached, though it may be added to the March liaison agenda after the mayor and county board chair discuss the matter with their respective boards.

Items of particular interest on the January 18 liaison agenda included Town updates on:The status of the West Main Street extension project through the Royal Phoenix Business Park and construction of a wastewater pumping station for the initial commercial development at the site, and how both are impacting the start of the ITFederal construction project;

  • The status of the Route 522 North Corridor water line expansion/redundancy project’
  • Phase 2 of Happy Creek Road improvements;
  • The Town’s movement toward creation of a Building Inspection and Maintenance Code;
  • The status of the state and federally-mandated Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrades;
  • And as reported previously, an attempt by the Town to coordinate how it will approach a State mandate that all vehicle inspection and licensing decals be moved from the center to left side of windshields by January 1, 2019;

And on the County side, updates on:

  • The status of implementation of the Building Inspection Software in the County Planning Department;
  • The County’s In-Town Projects;
  • Projects on the table of the Development Review Committee on both sides of the town-county boundary;
  • As well as reviews of the joint implementation of a local Tow Board; and a Dog Tethering Code creating more specific standards that the Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Department can use to prevent neglect or cruel treatment of pet dogs countywide.


As Town ponders costs, ITFederal breaks ground at Royal Phoenix
January 23, 2018

Town Manager Joe Waltz, far center, explains status of Royal Phoenix infrastructure development at town-county liaison meeting. Photos/Roger Bianchini

At the January 18, Front Royal-Warren County Liaison Committee Meeting Town Manager Joe Waltz reported on two projects impacting the start of the long-dreamed about commercial re-development at the Royal Phoenix Business Park on 149 acres of the former 467-acre Avtex Superfund site.

Waltz told county officials the Town hopes to have Requests for Proposals on the West Main Street extension access road through Royal Phoenix out before the end of January. He also confirmed that architectural consultant Pennoni is currently working on a design and cost estimate for a wastewater pumping station design for the north end of the site. Discussion indicated the pump station plan Pennoni is now working on would accommodate, not only a number of businesses hoped for recruitment at Royal Phoenix, but also the new police headquarters.

Waltz said the Town was poised to move forward on the pump station project and hoped to have the Pennoni design in shortly. Mayor Hollis Tharpe observed that with the police headquarters project underway it was hoped more businesses will come to the conclusion the remediated, former Superfund site across the street will be “a nice place to locate.”

Contacted later, EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald said the first commercial client at Royal Phoenix, ITFederal, began digging footers at their site last week as the liaison discussion loomed. Their first building will be a 10,000-square foot office building, with a second building to follow shortly. At liaison Waltz said town officials hope to meet with representatives of ITFederal in “the next couple of weeks.”

Two perspectives on site work at the ITFederal pad at Royal Phoenix, above looking back toward the EDA headquarters in the old ‘admin’ building, below looking from the admin building parking lot toward the site.

According to EDA officials ITFederal had not been able to finalize the site plan for Phase 1 of its project until the Town had approved a final design and elevations on the section of the planned West Main Street Extended access road running by its pad site. That process pushed a hoped for start to ITFederal construction from last year to the above-mentioned push beyond preliminary site work in the third week of January 2018.

Further uncertainty was raised last year when council appeared divided over an earlier seeming commitment that the Town would construct a wastewater pumping station to serve a number of business hoped for recruitment to the Royal Phoenix site, rather than have each new business build its own wastewater pumping station. That larger, multi-client pump station was the staff recommendation during Steve Burke’s tenure as town manager. It was a recommendation which council at the time appeared to concur with.

However, discussion late last year indicated some council uncertainty as initial site development infrastructure costs butted up against other capital improvement costs, particularly the $11-million new police headquarters being constructed across Kendrick Lane from the north side of the Royal Phoenix site.

Once council’s final decision on the pumping station is transmitted to ITFederal, the company will know exactly what its building parameters will be. It will also know exactly how its initial construction budget will be spent. ITFederal had committed $150,000 to the West Main Street extended access road project in the wake of the Town’s initial indication the company would not have to build its own wastewater pumping station.

In fact, the reminder that ITFederal had committed $150,000 to the West Main extended access road in exchange for not having to build its own pump station seemed to be the point that pivoted council back toward a commitment to a larger Town-operated pump station that clients would pay connection and associated water-sewer fees to access.

County Board Chair Tony Carter questioned Town Manager Waltz on costs of the West Main Street extension access road through Royal Phoenix and how much money the Town had put aside for the project. Waltz replied that the portion of a previous real estate tax hike of a penny or two committed to the project several years ago at the urging of then Vice-Mayor Shae Parker had resulted in $450,000 being set aside at this time.

A look at the likely path of the W. Main St. extended access road into the Royal Phoenix Business Park, from Kendrick Ln. to the north.

Responding to Carter’s citing of a $3-million estimate for the access road project, Waltz said the Town was focused on the first phase to accommodate the ITFederal project at somewhat less cost.

In response to a follow-up question on Phase 1 of the West Main extended access road costs, EDA Executive Director McDonald explained to Royal Examiner that phase will go to the end of ITFederal’s lot 6 from Kendrick Lane.

“The cost of the West Main connector for the first phase was originally estimated at $1.3 million, with a $650,000 match by VDOT; $500,000 in unmatched funds; and the $150,000 which ITFederal agreed to match in the wake of the initial decision the Town would build the pumping station,” McDonald said.

As for further construction of what will eventually be a primary access road through the Royal Phoenix site from Kendrick Lane on the north to West Main Street at Criser Road on the south, she added, “They (the Town) will then apply for a second round of funding once there is a user for the next portion of the site. VDOT funding is based on job creation and investment.”

As for significant off-site road improvements included in a traffic study of impacts of Royal Phoenix commercial development, McDonald said, “No significant road improvements (off site) are needed until the site has reached 300,000 square feet of total gross floor area.”

More views of site work at the first commercial client’s pad at the former Avtex Superfund site, now more appealing known as the Royal Phoenix Business Park.

Local Government
Town approves resolution opposing state wireless industry ‘gift’ legislation
January 23, 2018

Town Attorney Doug Napier and Town Manager Joe Waltz explained dynamics of new wireless legislation on the table in the Virginia General Assembly – those dynamics are NOT municipal friendly, they said. Photos/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – One would imagine that like every municipality in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Town of Front Royal Town finds itself in conflict with two Republican State legislators over bills introduced that would remove virtually all municipal control on the location and installation of future wireless communications structures, including replacement technologies.

Following unanimous approval of the addition of the matter to the Monday night, January 22 meeting agenda, council unanimously approved a Resolution opposing both House Bill 1258 and Senate Bill 405 now before the Virginia General Assembly. That resolution of opposition will be sent to state delegates (Republicans Collins, 29th, Webert, 18th, Gilbert, 15th) and senator (Republican Mark Obenshain, 26th) representing the Town of Front Royal; as well as to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam; the Virginia Municipal League; and the bills two sponsors, Delegate Terry G. Kilgore, Republican-1st District, and Senator Ryan T. McDougle, R-4th District.

Mayor Hollis Tharpe thanked the Town’s legal and administrative staffs for quickly bringing the legislation to his attention so that opposition could be voted on and passed on to the appropriate legislative representatives prior to votes on passage of the bills.

Noting that the staff summary of impacts of the legislation had just been passed to council prior to the Monday night meeting, Councilman Jacob Meza asked Town Attorney Doug Napier and Town Manager Joe Waltz to summarize and elaborate on impacts of the legislation on municipalities across the commonwealth. With legislation on the table that would not only strip municipalities of controls on the wireless industry, but set precedents that would lead all other industries to expect similar treatment, the only issue was where to start.

What precedents would be set?
1. For starters according to the town attorney, the assumption of approval is written into the legislation, with a brief and highly technical review period being included that most municipalities would not have the in-house expertise to address without outside contractor help. “The locality must provide guidance on incomplete application within 10 days or application is ‘Deemed Approved’ which takes a legislative decision away from local elected officials.”

2. Then a fee ($500) attached to the application and review process would not cover costs the municipality would incur.

3. The proposed legislation strips local government’s right to approve applications based on local zoning accomplished in the best interest of a community based on feedback from that community’s citizens.

4. And as stated above, legal staff believes treatment of the wireless industry in such a manner would open the floodgate of deregulation of all industries with equipment located within that municipality’s boundaries.
As stated in the staff summary, localities may NOT condition approval on removal of an existing structure; may NOT require co-location of other equipment on the new wireless structure; and may NOT limit the duration of the approval.
The town staff summary observes: “This proposed legislation is not a good idea, among other reasons, because:

  •  “Local land use authority ought to rest with locally elected officials who best know their communities and their citizens’ needs.
  • “Local zoning takes into consideration that the economic, social, cultural, and other conditions are not one-size fits-all.
  • “Local zoning recognizes the importance of citizen input. The bills’ provisions remove the ability of our citizens to have meaningful input into decisions affecting the character of their communities.
  • “The proposed bills create a paradigm shift in authority, moving the decision-making process away from the community and its elected officials to FOR-PROFIT companies who care about their bottom line, not about our citizens’ welfare.
  • “Specifically, the “Deemed Approved” language strikes down local legislative process. These bills take away the ability of a locality to ask questions of the applicant or negotiate with the industry about a specific location or type of equipment or screening.
  • “This is not the process for a typical zoning application and there is no compelling justification for this industry to be treated in a special manner.”
  • As for a maximum $500 fee placed on the applicant versus costs incurred by the municipality in reviewing the application, the staff summary states that:
  • “The fees will never be in tune with actual costs. A State statute-determined fee does not account for the differences in actual local workloads as well as the costs and availability of professional services costs that occur in different local jurisdictions occasioned by differing applications throughout the Commonwealth.
  • “Actual Direct Costs are not typically calculated by localities; this unfunded mandate would place an additional burden on local taxpayers who will end up subsidizing the applicants.
  • “The alternative is that the applications will be automatically approved because localities won’t have the resources to review the various projects within the arbitrary deadlines.”
  • Where a municipality to reject an application, it must then:
    • Provide a written statement explaining the rejection of the application;
    • Explain any modifications in writing (this may be used by the applicant as evidence that the locality’s disapproval was arbitrary and capricious);
    • Must explain the disapproval by a substantial record of evidence contained in a written record publicly released

These are the criteria the town attorney noted Front Royal, like most Virginia municipalities would not have the in-house expertise to prepare.

As for precedent setting, the staff summary notes that, “These bills would treat the wireless industry differently from all other private profit-making industries, thus leaving localities (and the state) open to charges of discrimination against other industries. The likelihood is high that other industries will expect the same or similar treatment.

Much like what has occurred at the federal level over the past year as governmental regulatory authority has systematically been stripped from a variety of departments this proposed state legislation gives private-sector, for-profit companies the upper hand over Virginia municipalities from the start. The legislation even goes so far as to create new language to accomplish that.

“The locality may not require a special exception, special use permit or variance for ‘Administrative Review-Eligible Projects’ (which is a new term),” town staff notes in parenthesis of the phrase attached to future wireless industry project applications.

Well now our state representatives will know what our town officials think of this legislation, I bet they are wondering what their constituents think as well …

The sponsors of the legislation in the state house and senate are:
Del. Terry G. Kilgore, R-1st District, Richmond office (804) 698-1001; district office (276) 386-7011
Sen. Ryan T. McDougle, R-4th District, Richmond office (804) 698-7504, district office (804) 730-1026
Front Royal’s State Senator is Mark Obenshain, R-26th District, Richmond office (804) 698-7526, district office (540) 437-1451

Front Royal’s three House delegates are:
C. Todd Gilbert, R-15th District, Richmond office (804) 698-1015, district office (540) 459-7550
Christopher E. Collins, R-29th District, Richmond office (804) 698-1029, district office (540) 539-1724
Michael Webert, R-18th District, Richmond office (804) 698-1018, district office (540) 999-8218

Chamber News
Front Royal-Warren County Chamber News
January 23, 2018

St. Luke Community Clinic is in search of 2 board members. The board meets every other month on a Wednesday at 6 PM. Meeting usually lasting until 7:30 or 8 PM. Looking for community minded board members with an interest in the clinic and medical resources for low-income and the uninsured people of Front Royal and Warren County. Questions and inquires can be answered by Vicki Davies Executive Director of St. Luke Community Clinic.

2018 Westminster Dog Show Raffle to benefit the Humane Society of Warren County. Raffle tickets are only $10 for a 1 in 202 chance to win $500 cash. Each ticket will be randomly assigned an AKC dog breed. If your breed wins Best in Show you win the prize. Breeds will be posted on our facebook page at Winners will be contacted on February 14th. Tickets can be purchased at the shelter located at 1245 Progress Drive in Front Royal, VA or by calling 540-635-4734. The shelter is open 10am-4pm 6 days a week, closed on Wednesdays. For more information click here.

Lalo “Let Art Live On” has announced that a new outlet for LALO Society member artists. Currently over 30 pieces of art are on exhibit at Brooklyn’s Marketplace, 206 E. Main Street. All pieces at Brooklyns are for sale, but even, if sold, this art will “live on” through LALO’s exhibition halls online. The opportunity to see LALO member art at Brooklyn’s Marketplace joins other LALO exhibitions at the Warehouse Art Gallery in Luray, the Blue Wing Frog in Front Royal, Falls Church Distillers LLC in Falls Church and CrepeWorx in Winchester.

Samuels Public Library announces programs to be held in the Youth Services Department for the month of February. Click here for details. The Little Red Hen puppet show, presented by WCDS fourth graders, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 7, at 11:00 A.M.

The Front Royal Women’s Resource Center invite you to their upcoming Events:

Women In Networking – Wednesday, January 24th – Guest Speaker: Karen Poff, Virginia Cooperative Extension -11:30AM at 213 E Main Street (Meet in the Middle/Open House)

WomanGathering – Thursday, Thursday, February 15th – Guest Speaker: Jill Darnell (Author) – 5:30 PM at 213 E Main Street (Meet in the Middle/Open House)

Women In Networking – Wednesday, February 28th – Guest Speaker: Kelli Dayritt, LFCC -11:30AM at 213 E Main Street (Meet in the Middle/Open House)

Dare to Dream Breakfast – SAVE THE DATE – March 22nd.– 8 AM @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club – The 2018 Dare-to-Dream grants and Elaine Bromfield Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to Warren County women to follow their dreams. Members, non-members and friends are invited to attend. Reservations are a must and advanced ticket ($35) payment is preferred. More information and ticket purchase options will be available on our homepage closer to event date.

Mountain Laurel Montessori School is hosting an Open House on Sunday, January 28th, from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. Parents and children are invited to come meet teachers, explore the classrooms and learn more about Montessori education. For more information, please visit our website or call 540-636-4257.

You’re invited! Join Passages Travel & Cruises for this exciting presentation as they explore the National Parks. January 30th, 7 p.m. at Samuel’s Public Library. Doors open at at 6:30 p.m. Plus, learn about your special booking discounts available only to those who attend! Can’t attend click here to join us from your computer or mobile device. Click here for more information.

Legislative Update
Legislative Update Virginia District 29 – Delegate Chris Collins
January 23, 2018

The 2018 General Assembly session is in full swing! This week we began meeting with our assigned committees. This year I will be serving on the Courts of Justice, Transportation and Education Committees. I look forward to working with other members on these important committees to pass practical solutions to issues that Virginians face everyday.

I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with so many of you who have stopped by my Capitol office. If you happen to be in the Richmond area during this year’s General Assembly Session please stop by the Pocahontas Building (Room E420) and say hello.

Daily Session and Committee Videos

Have you been wondering how you can watch the House of Delegates daily sessions? The link below will direct you to the live feed as well as archived videos from previous days.

Daily Session Videos

Interested in watching videos of House Committee meetings? Please click on the link below for instructions to view Committee videos.

Committee Video Instructions

The Budget

On Wednesday, Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones, spoke to members about the budgeting process. The budget is the most important thing we do in the General Assembly. It is not a partisan piece of legislation and is the best opportunity we have to work across the aisle. I promise to be a good steward of your tax dollars. We will be consistent with what we have done in the past and work efficiently and in a transparent manner. The budget we pass will be structurally balanced and show a commitment to the core functions of government.

List of Budget Amendments

2018 Legislation

I am carrying over 20 bills during the 2018 General Assembly Session. Last week, my HB291- Storage and Preservation of Adoption Files successfully made it out of the Health, Welfare and Institutions committee (22-Y 0-N).

HB291 Overview

Other bills have been assigned to various committees and will be on the docket in the coming weeks.

I encourage you to follow my legislation by clicking on the link below.

Track Legislation

In summary, I encourage you to keep in touch with me and my office over the coming months. I value the feedback you provide on a continual basis as it helps me do a better job of representing you. You can email me at or call my office in Richmond at (804) 698-1029.

I will provide you with weekly email updates during the 2018 General Assembly Session and will schedule my Coffee with Chris events after Session to report on important topics and take questions.

Thank you for your support and I look forward to serving you in 2018.

Private island vacationing for the rest of us
January 23, 2018

Every family approaches vacations a little differently, but everyone is trying to escape the daily grind and find a place to relax, usually with lots of privacy. Nowhere is more private than a secluded island and, according to the New York Post, it’s possible for everyday people to get their hands on a rental for less than $500 per night if they know where to look.
Long the storied hideaways of millionaires, celebrities, and evil villains, private islands have always carried with them a certain mystique. With nobody else around, a couple can truly relax with the knowledge that literally no other person could disturb their experience without a boat and a lot of time on their hands. Although it costs a hefty sum to purchase these private getaways, the travel industry has caught on to the fact that many people are searching for this experience and they are responding by offering prices that regular people can afford.

Provided that it is a small group of friends or family that are looking for the privacy, sharing an island can be a great way to save money. According to Thrillist, a place like Charlie’s Island in Florida can be had for as little as $50 per person, per night if rented for the week. This price gets a group full access to a 1/3-acre island off the keys with a private dock, houseboat, and views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Peer-to-peer rental services, such as Airbnb, have also sprung up around the world and given people access to homes that they might not otherwise have been able to find or arrange accommodations for easily. Take Tahiti Island, Nicaragua, for instance, where a four-bedroom house with a pool can be had for only $200 per night. With prices this low, it might even cost more money to get there than it would to stay for the week. If private islands were off the table during the last vacation planning session, it might be time to check into the options again.