Archive for: February 12th, 2018

Local Government
Council nixes Property Maintenance Code revisions
February 12, 2018

Not even upgraded property maintenance standards – on Feb. 12 council voted down a revised property maintenance code. Photos/Roger BianchiniFRONT ROYAL – Somewhat surprisingly on Monday, February 12, the Front Royal Town Council voted down revisions to its Property Maintenance Code by a 4-0 vote. Councilmen Meza and Morrison were absent.

Work session discussion since a January 8, 6-0 vote defeating the first-reading vote of a new Property Maintenance Code with a Rental Inspection District attached, seemed to indicate a majority intent to move forward with changes to the property maintenance code without the rental inspection district. An estimated cost of $150,000 for a code official to handle the joint property maintenance and rental inspections was made as far back as July 2017. That cost had appeared to be a deterrent for a council majority as far as creating the joint property maintenance-rental district code revisions.

Work session discussion on February 5 indicated no apparent hard opposition to the stand-alone property maintenance revisions. In fact, the intention of approaching the Town of Strasburg about joint funding of a code official to handle property maintenance inspections in both municipalities was put on the table. At that work session staff noted that Strasburg had passed a similar code to the revised Town proposal two or three years ago, but had yet to enforce its code because the Strasburg council had yet to budget a staff position as the enforcement arm.
No cost estimate with or without Strasburg’s involvement was included in the agenda packet summary of the proposal presented on February 12. The staff recommendation presented at the February 5 work session was “adoption of the draft amendment when Town Council has the funding to administer it.”

There were no public hearing speakers and no council discussion pro or con after Gary Gillespie’s motion, seconded by John Connolly, to affirm the ordinance amendment. The motion was then voted down on the 4-0 voice vote.

Having gotten an early draft budget from Town Finance Director B. J. Wilson on February 5, a clear council majority has expressed a desire to approve a balanced Fiscal Year 2019 budget with NO tax increases attached.

“We’ll see if our council will belly up with a tax increase,” Mayor Tharpe said during a July 2017 work session discussion of the joint property maintenance-rental inspection district proposal. At the time, Connolly pointed out that revenue from one-cent of a past real estate tax hike had already been committed to fund a position that could handle enforcement duties, leaving only a half-cent hike necessary to fully fund a position to enforce the joint code revision at the $150,000 estimate.

But even with the estimated $105,000 annual revenue from that previous tax hike available for an enforcement position, council has chosen at this point to abort the proposed upgrades to the existing code.
The absent Councilman Morrison has been council’s leading proponent of including a rental inspection district with property maintenance code revisions. However, after making the motion to approve the joint revisions to the town code on January 8, he voted against his own motion. Morrison’s January 8 “no” vote was a tactical move that will allow him to reintroduce the renter protections code at a future date when passage would seem more likely.

But until such a time arrives, renters with serious complaints about the condition and circumstance imposed by some landlords had hoped the revised property maintenance code alone could assure some basic living standards are provided to town renters. That had been Morrison’s hope in the short term.

Now it appears even that hope has been dashed in the coming FY 2019 budget cycle.

Chris Morrison has been passionate about protecting town renters – but a council majority appears to have deemed even increased property maintenance standards too expensive to enforce at this time.

State News
First Lady Pam Northam announces findings of new report showing historic preservation tax credits boost Virginia’s economy
February 12, 2018

RICHMOND – During an annual legislative reception hosted last week, First Lady Pam Northam highlighted the findings of two just-completed studies that show the sustained and substantial contribution preservation makes to Virginia’s economy through the incentives of state historic rehabilitation tax credits (RTCs) to repurpose and recycle old buildings.

One study, conducted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, particularly focused on the returns the Commonwealth reaps from its investment in historic preservation through RTCs.

Significantly, the VCU study found that much of the $4.5 billion in private investment would have gone untapped without the incentive of the state’s tax credit being available to property owners, developers, entrepreneurs and others to undertake rehabilitation projects, which must be carried out in strict accordance with the U.S. Secretary of Interior’s ‘Standards of Rehabilitation’.

Over the 20 year period, the state RTC program has spurred the rehabilitation, reuse, and preservation of thousands of historic buildings in rural and urban communities throughout Virginia. Within those communities, RTC projects have anchored and encouraged revitalization and economic sustainability moving forward as new businesses and residential spaces arise in once-vacant and often formerly blighted buildings, and by creating jobs in the construction, retail, service, tourism, and other sectors of the economy.

A separate and complementary study undertaken by Preservation Virginia examined the impact of the federal Historic Tax Credits (HTC) on Virginia’s economy. Taking 2014 as an example, the study found that the program resulted in $467 million in economic output, supported 9,960 jobs and generated $3.50 for every $1 invested through the first three years.

“These studies clearly demonstrate the sustained and substantial contribution that preservation makes to Virginia’s economy,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “The Governor and I applaud the Department of Historic Resources and Preservation Virginia for caring for our rich past and preparing us for an amazing future.”

Conducted on behalf of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the VCU study analyzed the overall impact of the state’s RTC program from its inception in 1997 through 2017, its twentieth anniversary. During those two decades, according to VCU’s Wilder School, the RTC program issued $1.2 billion in tax credits and leveraged $4.5 billion in private investment.

“Preserving and restoring historic buildings is critical to revitalizing towns and cities across the Commonwealth,” Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler added. “The investments we make through the state rehabilitation tax credit program create jobs, attract new business, and breathe new life into communities. Continuing to make these investments will guarantee that our cultural heritage is a key part of the new Virginia economy.”

First Lady Northam’s remarks were the focal point of this year’s legislative reception hosted by Preservation Virginia—the first statewide nonprofit preservation organization in the nation. The reception convened under the banner of ‘Celebrating the Economics of Historic Preservation’. Fittingly, the reception was held at the Hilton Richmond Downtown, formerly the city’s landmark 20th-century Miller & Rhoads department store, which was re-purposed using state and federal rehabilitation tax credits.

The recently completed study of Virginia’s rehabilitation tax credits adds to a growing number of studies that confirm the centrality of preservation to the long-term economic health and vitality of Virginia, a state renowned for its history.

In 2017, Preservation Virginia released a study, also conducted by VCU, which revealed how historic preservation undergirds Virginia’s heritage tourism, a significant portion of the Virginia economy. The study projected that the $7.7 billion spent per year by heritage tourists, in addition to the $430 million spent by heritage tourism sites for operational expenditures, ripples throughout the economy, adding about $6.5 billion while generating $1.3 billion in taxes.

Preservation Virginia, founded in 1889, is dedicated to perpetuating and revitalizing Virginia’s cultural, architectural and historic heritage. The organization collaborates with the Department of Historic Resources on numerous initiatives and projects.

Town Notices
NOTICE: Town Hall closing early on Tuesday 2-13
February 12, 2018

The Front Royal Town Hall, including the Drive-Thru, will be closing at 4:00pm on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 to conduct a fire safety and evacuation drill of the building with Town employees. The Front Royal Police Department will be on site for observation.

Motorists are asked to use caution while driving in the area of Main Street and Crescent Street during this time as there may be several pedestrians on the sidewalks and crossing the streets.
Thank you for your consideration and patience as we conduct these safety practices with our employees.

Houses For Sale
Local resort style living in Lake Frederick
February 12, 2018

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Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains-Gated Lake Frederick Community. Enjoy resort living with community amenities including the fabulous Regions 117 complete with lake views!

Community trails for miles of enjoyment. Vacation At Home! Within minutes to wineries, shopping, Shenandoah River, Skyline Drive, Appalachian Trail, State Park & 6 nearby golf courses. Minutes to Winchester, I-66, I-81. Located 90 Min From DC.

Listed for only $284,000 – Call Ken to schedule your tour today of 110 Fritillary Court! 540-683-9680

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Work Notes: Valentine’s Day and the office
February 12, 2018

With increased focus on interpersonal relationships in recent months, you might be asking what you can and can’t do on Valentine’s Day in an office setting.

Good question.

The rules of relationships are changing, but here are some tried and true guidelines from Forbes.

1. Don’t discuss your love life at the office and, if you break this rule, make sure you don’t discuss these things with the opposite sex.

2. Don’t flirt. This can be misinterpreted in a dozen different ways. Dodge that snare.

3. Skip the personal gifts but feel free to share cookies with all your coworkers. You might stay away from love-themed cookies and little heart candies. Chocolate chip will do.

4. Don’t get physical at the office. Ever.

5. Rethink having your significant other send elaborate gifts of flowers to the office.

6 .No emotional displays, please. Not joy. Not sadness.