Archive for: February 13th, 2018

Local News
One angry Christendom alumni calls for President O’Donnell’s resignation
February 13, 2018
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John Connolly made an impassioned plea for Christendom College’s president to resign in the wake of revelations of minimal administrative reactions to reports of rape by and of students over nearly two decades. Photos/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – Christendom College alumni John Connolly, Class of 2008, has blasted his alma mater, the school president and board of directors regarding past failures and current direction in response to recent revelations about issues surrounding reports by female students of sexual assaults and date rapes by male students at the conservative Catholic college.

Connolly took the opportunity of “Requests and Inquiries of Council Members” during the February 12 meeting of the Front Royal Town Council to express “disappointment in the organization” of  Christendom College, located on Front Royal’s east side. That disappointment was directed at, not only the revelation of past administrative inaction surrounding sexual assault and rape reports dating back as far as 1999, but at the intention of then and still Christendom President Timothy O’Donnell to remain in that position; as well as the apparent willingness of the Christendom Board of Directors to allow him to do so.

As first reported in the Northern Virginia Daily and then other local media outlets including Royal Examiner, in early-and-mid January Catholic blogger Simcha Fisher published a two-part account of the stories of two former Christendom female students, one named and one not, about their experiences of sexual assault or rape by male student boyfriends. But most troubling for many, including John Connolly, was the description of what appeared to be an uneven and ineffectual handling of the women’s reports of these crimes to the school administration. See related story here

In an initial response, O’Donnell alleged “misleading information and serious inaccuracies” in the Simcha Fisher blog posts, but then went on to apologize to past victims of such incidents within the Christendom student body. In a subsequent response Christendom Executive Vice-President Kenneth Ferguson promised the school would do better in the future and offered to meet with student victims, past and present. Ferguson even thanked Simcha Fisher and her husband Damien for shedding light on the problem.

“We have failed some of our students,” O’Donnell admitted in the second response.

For John Connolly that was not enough.

“I attended the school from 2004 to 2008 and have been involved in the school in some capacity or another for 14 years. It is the lack of response and support for victims that is a heinous scandal and open sore for years that remains. It is not lightly that I must express my disappointment with the gross lack of responsibility and accountability in the college that has been uncovered through the many heart-rending accounts by victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape at the school,” Connolly said in opening his remarks.

The Christendom Advocacy & Support Coalition formed in support of student victims and survivors of sexual assault and rape by fellow students confirms 18 known cases between 1999 and 2016, but adds it believes there to be more. On Monday night, Connolly agreed with that assessment, saying following the meeting he believed there are more victims coming forward in light of the recent publicity.

Pointing to 1999 as a point at which Christendom’s administration became aware of the early reports of such criminal incidents involving students, Connolly noted that the school did not develop even “a rudimentary policy to handle sexual assault cases until 2013. The lack of institutional response is stunning, especially for an organization that has long prided itself on having a sacred bond between students, their families and the college,” Connolly continued in reading from a prepared statement.

He said as he watched the situation evolve over the past three to four weeks he had “truly hoped the leadership of the college would hold the administration accountable for its failures.” However, Connolly said subsequent comments in the media attributed to the chairman of the school’s board of directors “indicate otherwise” as far asking for Christendom President Timothy O’Donnell’s resignation.

“I firmly believe that this permanently erodes any vestige of trustworthiness for the college and will likely destroy the college’s viability as a place of faithful Catholic higher education in the future,” Connolly said in a scathing appraisal of his alma mater.

At stake, Connolly believes, is Christendom College’s continued viability as a trustworthy center for Catholic higher education.

“If he truly loves the college, he must step down,” Connolly said of the school president. He added that failing a voluntary resignation, “the Christendom Board of Directors must save the college by making that decision for him.

For the rest of our local community, I invite you to join me and everybody who has been concerned to see this issue in lifting our thoughts and hearts in prayer for the victims and for the college to find the guidance to act with justice,” he concluded of Christendom College’s path forward.

Another perspective
However, one person of influence in the Christendom community does not agree with Connolly’s assessment of the questions raised by the Fishers’ blog “Are Students Safe in Christendom’s bubble?” Anne W. Carroll, widow of Christendom founder Warren H. Carroll, sent a letter of support of O’Donnell’s continued leadership of Christendom to alumni on February 8, four days before Connolly made his public call for O’Donnell’s resignation or ouster by the school’s board of directors.

“Speaking as the person who intimately knew Dr. Carroll’s mind and heart, I know his support for Dr. O’Donnell never wavered and never would waver. It would not waiver now,” Christendom’s founder’s widow wrote. Mrs. Carroll credited O’Donnell with continuing her husband’s vision for the school and urged an outpouring of alumni support for the Christendom president.

“Dr. O’Donnell’s profound Catholic faith, his sincere love for his students, his commitment to Christendom’s goal of restoring all things in Christ, and his brilliant leadership has made Christendom what it is today. I can only hope and pray that he is able to lead Christendom for many, many more years because that is exactly what Dr. Carroll would want … Christendom College is a premier educational institution. But far more than that, it is a living Christendom – a place where Christ is King, it would not be so without Dr. O’Donnell. Therefore Timothy O’Donnell deserves the undying gratitude of all of us who love the college,” Mrs. Carroll concluded.

We now know that at least one alumni not directly impacted by sexual assault in the Christendom community, along with many who were, do not agree with Mrs. Carroll’s assessment.

As the debate continues, one is left to wonder whether in Mrs. Carroll’s opinion as her husband’s vision for Christendom College was expanded into the 21st Century, would Christ have directed more time and effort into protecting those most vulnerable and victimized among his flock than some believe Timothy O’Donnell did over the past 19 years?

Christendom College President Timothy O’Donnell may not have Councilman Connolly’s support, but he has gotten a continued endorsement from the widow of college founder Warren H. Carroll.

State News
Governor Northam announces January 2018 General Fund Revenue Collections Up 5.1% from the previous year and Fiscal-Year-To-Date collections up 5.8%
February 13, 2018
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RICHMOND – Governor Northam announced today that January General Fund revenues rose 5.1 percent from the previous January – largely due to payroll withholding.

Speaking about the revenue increase Governor Northam said, “This positive revenue growth indicates that Virginia’s economy is strong but we must continue to build and diversify an economy that works for all Virginians. Although we are ahead of the forecast, about 42 percent of the total general fund estimate remains to be collected. This session and going forward, we have the opportunity to build on this growth by creating jobs and strengthening the underpinnings of our economy.”

January is a significant month for revenue collections. Besides the normal monthly payroll withholding and sales tax collections, estimated payments from individuals are due in January. Much of the growth was due to an additional deposit day in payroll withholding this January as compared to a year-ago. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 5.8 percent through January, ahead of the annual forecast of 3.4 percent growth.

Collections of payroll withholding taxes grew 14.0 percent for the month, with one more deposit day than January of last year. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting December sales, rose 0.8 percent in January. The combined December and January receipts, representing the bulk of the holiday shopping season, was 0.4 percent above the same period last year. Also, December and January are significant months for collections of nonwithholding and receipts can be distorted by the timing of payments. Taxpayers had until January 16 to submit their fourth estimated payment for tax year 2017 and some of these payments are received in December. Receipts of nonwithholding for the two-month period rose 40.3 percent from last year.

Year-to-date, withholding collections are 4.7 percent ahead of the same period last year, above the annual estimate of 3.5 percent growth. On a year-to-date basis, sales tax collections have risen 3.2 percent, slightly ahead of the annual estimate of 3.0 percent growth. Nonwithholding collections for the first seven months of the fiscal year rose by 20.2 percent, ahead of the annual estimate of a 4.3 percent increase. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 5.8 percent through January, above the annual forecast of 3.4 percent growth.

State News
Governor Northam statement on progress of legislative session at ‘Crossover’
February 13, 2018
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RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam today released a statement at the midpoint of the 2018 legislative session:

“As the General Assembly crosses the midpoint of the 2018 legislative session, I am encouraged by the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship that has defined my first month in office. So far this session, we have worked together, Democrats and Republicans, to make progress on a number of issues that will make life better for all Virginians. Those priorities include raising the felony larceny threshold for the first time in decades, giving student loan borrowers new tools and resources to manage their debt, and a commitment to smart regulatory reform.

“These are just some of priorities that we have been sent to Richmond to address, but our biggest work is still ahead of us. It will require more of the commitment to bipartisanship and productivity that has distinguished this session from years past.

“Virginians have tasked us with expanding healthcare access to nearly 400,000 people who need it. I am pleased that the dialogue on how we can best accomplish this goal is still ongoing. I am confident we have the capacity to meet this challenge together, in a way that works for all of us.

“Fixing Metro, an integral part of our economy, is critical this year. This is not a regional priority, it is a Virginia priority and I remain hopeful that we will find a solution to its revenue challenges in the weeks to come.

“As we work to repeal the freeze on electric utility rates, I am pleased that the General Assembly continues to work constructively on this important issue. We came away from the negotiating table with a product that made substantial improvements to the original legislation and current law; however, just as I promised on my first day in office, I will weigh final legislation by one standard: whether it is doing the most good for the most Virginians. If we can do better by consumers, we should, and I look forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly on getting this right.

“We have made great progress on important issues, but we won’t solve every problem this year. As we look back on the legislation that has not made it through crossover, it is clear that Virginians’ voices are not being heard on many key issues, including preventing gun violence, increasing access to the voting booth and protecting all Virginians from discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

“The first half of this legislative session represents the most productive period I have seen since I came to the General Assembly in 2008 and we are just getting started. I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to continue this progress and meet the challenges our fellow Virginians have asked us to solve.”

Local News
Front Royal man travels 6,000 miles to play in medieval football game
February 13, 2018
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Ashborne, U.K. is home to a unique annual football game that drew one man across the pond–from Front Royal, VA! / Photos by Michael S. Williams

ASHBOURNE, U.K.– Michael Williams of Front Royal is more than 3,000 miles from home today (Feb. 13) playing an ancient football game through the streets of this historic agricultural town where the goals are three miles apart and among the few applicable rules is one against murder.

Williams learned of the 500-year-old possible forerunner of rugby and American football while shepherding groups of Randolph-Macon Academy students on exchange visits to Ashbourne’s historic Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School (circa 1585). He vowed one day to fly the 6,000-mile round trip and take part. Ashbourne, a town not much larger than Front Royal, lies roughly in the middle of England and is steeped in history dating from Roman times.

The game is unique in that there is no limit to the number of players and lasts up to 16 hours over two days You choose sides according to where you were born – to the north or south of the River Henmoor that runs through the town. Michael, 50, whose family hails from the south of England, is one of about a thousand  “Down’ards” who are chasing a solid,cork filled, basketball sized,ball, while roughly a thousand more “Up’ards”, born north of the river, are pushing and pulling and tugging and (sometimes) fighting to score a goal by fording a pond and hitting the ball three times on a plinth where an old mill once stood. This is the equivalent of the end zone and a touchdown.

The game, called “Shrovetide Football,” is played annually on Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) and Ash Wednesday (our Mardi Gras), and since medieval times begins around noon in the town square where a VIP “turns up” — throws into the crowd — the hand-painted ball at which time everyone has at it.

Meanwhile, store owners prepare for the game by nailing boards across their shop windows to mitigate against property damage. The “hug” or scrum, those closest around the ball, ebbs and flows, north and south, and the hundreds of “Up’ards and Down’ards” push against each other – think of a Redskins’ running play lasting not seconds, but a couple of hours, attempting to drive the ball toward their goal.

Crowds gather on the streets of the small town.  Below:  Michael S. Williams visiting with locals as he also participates in the annual game. 

Williams no doubt has already been dunked in the freezing Henmoor River – the ball, ergo the “hug” or players around the ball – spend some time in the waterway but mainly it is propelled forward through the streets of the town, then across fields and country roads leading to the targeted mill sites..Pause for a moment and imagine five to six hundred sweating players pushing each other in opposite directions. Anyone, at any time, can dive into, or out of, the fray.

While the ball is within town limits, players are known to duck into a tavern for a refresher, then dash back out to support their own side. If no goal is scored by 10 p.m., the game is called.

There are few rules though in modern times, there had to be a prohibition from carrying the ball in a motorized vehicle. One of the few original rules dating way back prohibits murder or manslaughter. “Undue violence” is “frowned upon.” Cemeteries and churchyards are deemed out of bounds.

What the intrepid Michael Williams may not have been aware of before making his trip: as a non-resident, he cannot be credited with scoring a goal!

Editor’s note:  Malcolm Barr Sr., a Rockland resident and contributing writer for the Royal Examiner, attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in the 1940s and played Shrovetide Football in his youth. He has had no burning desire to play the game a second time, however.

Legislative Update
Weekly Updates from the General Assembly – Delegate Chris Collins
February 13, 2018
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The 2018 General Assembly session reaches its halfway mark today! The House is making progress on several key issues as we begin to consider legislation passed by the Senate. Today is the last day for the House to act on its legislation.

Exchange student, Lira Moldozhunusova visited the Capitol last week to learn about our state government. Lira is from Kyrgyzstan and was joined by her host exchange family member, Darla Barrett and exchange program representative, Sharon Kalbarczyk.

Governor Northam and Speaker Cox Announce Bipartisan Compromise on Grand Larceny Threshold and Legislation to Protect Crime Victims

On Thursday, Governor Ralph Northam and Speaker Kirk Cox stood side-by-side and announced a bipartisan compromise to raise the felony larceny threshold to $500 and adopt into law legislation to ensure that crime victims are paid the restitution duly owed to them. A Crime Commission study recently found that there was over $230 million in unpaid and overdue restitution, which is money defendants owe to victims for things like medical expenses, owed to victims across the Commonwealth. More recently, WRIC8 reporter Kerri O’Brien found that $8 million in restitution that was collected from defendants but never delivered to the crime victims. That money was just sitting in state coffers not being delivered. Last year, the House and Senate passed a bill introduced by Delegate Rob Bell to address the unpaid restitution but Governor McAuliffe vetoed it. The commitment from Governor Northam to sign this piece of legislation is a significant step for crime victims.

Delegate Michael Webert introduces Regulatory Reform Legislation

One of my biggest priorities has always been ensuring there is less government intrusion on your everyday life. On Monday, Speaker Cox reached an agreement with Governor Northam to establish a regulatory reform pilot program with a goal to reduce or streamline regulatory requirements by 25% over the next three years. This bipartisan legislation will show hard working entrepreneurs, innovators, and small and large businesses that removing bureaucratic red tape that hinders the creation of good paying jobs is important.

We’ve seen positive effects of regulatory reform on our national economy during the last year, and this pilot program (which was the idea of my colleague Delegate Michael Webert) has the potential to reap positive benefits for Virginians for years. I am very excited about this program and I look forward to it removing many of the barriers that holds back development and job creation.

Interstate 81 Remarks

Last Thursday during the House Transportation Committee I presented the Transportation Secretary with questions about prioritizing and funding improvements along the Interstate 81 corridor. Year after year, we watch the State fund major projects in Norther Virginia, Richmond and in the Tidewater regions of our State while improvements to Interstate 81 are overlooked. To view my remarks and the Secretary’s comments, please forward the video to 9:00:50.

 

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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

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Committee Video Instructions

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 delccollins@house.virginia.gov 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.

Legislative Update
Goodlatte Responds to General Assembly Members on I-81
February 13, 2018
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) sent a letter to several members of the Virginia General Assembly and local Chambers of Commerce in response to their inquiries regarding improvements to the I-81 corridor.

Dear Members of the Virginia General Assembly,

Thank you for your January 25, 2018, letter regarding the future of Interstate 81. As you know, since being elected to Congress, I have commuted via I-81 every week from my home in Roanoke to Washington, D.C. I also regularly use the route when visiting communities throughout the Sixth Congressional District. As a fellow I-81 driver, I share your concerns for the long-term planning, improvement, and safety of the interstate and appreciate you taking the time to send me your thoughts.

I-81 is a key route for transportation in Virginia as well as through much of the eastern United States. While high traffic is evidence of the growing economic strength of the commonwealth, high usage has an impact on road conditions, congestion, and safety. We agree that significant efforts must be made in order to fully address improvements to the 325 miles of I-81 in Virginia.

For Fiscal Year 2018, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) estimated $1.06 billion of its budget, roughly 19.5%, would be provided in dedicated funding by the federal government. I believe that VDOT continues to serve as the best entity to fairly evaluate, create, and execute strategies to address infrastructure needs across the commonwealth using both state and federal funding. Additionally, I recognize the challenges of fairly addressing infrastructure needs in urban, suburban, and rural areas of Virginia while operating under funding constraints that limit the ability of the commonwealth to create long-term budgets to support a holistic revitalization strategy for I-81.

Throughout the years there have been significant hurdles to the creation of such a comprehensive approach, including environmental concerns, eminent domain, and the obstacle of rerouting infrastructure through protected historic and natural sites. These hurdles, coupled with fiscal constraints and the controversial nature of funding mechanisms such as tolling, which has historically been unpopular in many communities, has resulted in a mammoth project that is not easily undertaken. However, these areas must be addressed by VDOT in order to move forward with an efficient and achievable plan of action.

As you know, since 2011, the Republican Conference in the House of Representatives has banned the use of earmarks, precluding Virginia’s congressional delegation from pursuing targeted appropriations for projects such as I-81. In light of this restriction, I have continued to support the commonwealth’s applications to federal grant programs. In November, I jointly authored a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao voicing support for Virginia’s $52.9 million request from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program for the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program. It is my understanding that INFRA grants are expected to be awarded during the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2018.

Your letter also requested that the Virginia congressional delegation support I-81 through a national infrastructure initiative directed by the current administration. As you know, the White House recently announced a proposal to rebuild and maintain America’s infrastructure, outlining a $200 billion appropriations request from Congress, in order to spur an estimated $1.5 trillion in investment. The proposal also requests reforms in the permitting process and the return to major decision-making authority to each state. As this proposal is considered by the House of Representatives, please know that I will be evaluating any additional options to support I-81, and will be in close contact with officials from all levels of government, including members of Virginia’s General Assembly, should such an occasion arise.

I stand ready to assist the commonwealth in navigating the regulatory approval and grants process and will continue to monitor additional opportunities to support the I-81 corridor whenever possible. Please feel free to contact our offices should you have questions or require additional information.

Town Notices
NOTICE: Town business office will be closed on President’s Day, February 19th
February 13, 2018
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The Town of Front Royal Business Offices will be CLOSED on Monday, February 19, 2018 in observance of President’s Day.

Trash and Recycling for Monday will be collected Wednesday, February 21, 2018.

The Drive-Thru at Town Hall will be CLOSED on Saturday, February 17, 2018. The night deposit box, located near the Drive-Thru is available for your convenience.

Community Events
South Warren Volunteer Fire Department Spaghetti Dinner
February 13, 2018
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South Warren VFD in Bentonville will be having it’s Annual Winter Spaghetti Dinner! Menu includes, Spaghetti, Salad, Roll, Dessert, Coffee or Iced Tea. Dinner cost is by donation.

All proceeds support the Fire Department! Music begins at 4 pm with the SBG’s followed by Annie & Mac & George. So bring the family for a nice meal and some entertainment! Dinners are eat in or to go.

When: February 17 (Saturday) 4 pm – 7 pm

Where: South Warren Volunteer Fire Department
3330 Stonewall Jackson Hwy
Bentonville, Virginia 22610

Health
Broken hearts are a real medical issue
February 13, 2018
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If you have a heart, it will be broken, the bards say. Sadly, the doctors say a broken heart can actually be an illness.

According to Harvard Medical School, broken-heart syndrome, also called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, was first identified several decades ago in Japan. Although rarely diagnosed, it is most commonly seen in older women.

Patients experience a dramatic stressor in their lives (death, violence, or fear). The event causes a surge in hormones such as adrenaline. These hormones can stun the heart and lead to irregularities of the heart’s proper functions. The left ventricle in the heart weakens and balloons outward in a strange shape that looks like a Japanese octopus trap (a tako-tsubo). When a patient has this feature and no blocks in the coronary arteries, doctors can distinguish the disorder from a heart attack.

For the patient, it feels like a heart attack with chest pain and shortness of breath.

Medical professionals thought for many years that takotsubo sufferers could recover in about a month without any long-term repercussions but recent research published in the Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography has shown that it can have an impact for years after the initial event. These patients exhibited lingering signs that were very similar to those found in people with chronic heart failure – a condition that involves heart muscle death and does not currently have a reliable cure.

Local Government
Council approves proffer changes on FRLP’s 149-acre residential project
February 13, 2018
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Town Planning Director Jeremy Camp, at far left, goes over power point of proposed FRLP proffer changes on a 320-residential unit project on town’s eastside. Photos/Roger Bianchini

 

FRONT ROYAL – At it’s meeting of Monday, February 12, by a vote of 4-0 the Front Royal Town Council approved proposed changes to the proffer package on Front Royal Limited Partnership’s initial residential development plan. That plan would allow construction of as many as 320 residential units on 149 acres on the town’s east side. John Connolly made the motion to approve, seconded by Gary Gillespie. Eugene Tewalt and William Sealock joined in making the vote unanimous by those present. Councilmen Meza and Morrison were absent.

The involved project is not to be confused with FRLP’s second and larger proposed development on 604 acres in the vicinity of Mary’s Shady Lane off Happy Creek Road, also on the town’s east side. That larger parcel was brought into the town limits in a friendly 2014 annexation process with Warren County. The 604 acres has a maximum build-out of 818 residential units, though actual numbers will be approved, likely in phases during future rezoning applications. Original plans also call for commercial and recreational components, as well as road infrastructure.

The original proffer package on the 149-acre parcel already in the town limits was negotiated in 2010. The bulk of the proposed changes, which were recommended for approval by the town planning commission on November 15, remove “dollar for dollar credits” offered to the developer by the Town, in exchange for removal of some cash proffers offered to the Town by the developer. The changes are essentially viewed as a balancing act – or a “push” as it’s called in gambling circles.

FRLP principal David Vazzana, yellow shirt, and project consultant Bill Barnett to his right, at the Dec. 4 work session.

Of the proposed changes as a whole, following December 4 work session discussion Town Planning Director Jeremy Camp told Royal Examiner, “The existing proffers have some degree of balance between credits the Town pays FRLP and cash proffers paid to the Town by FRLP. Both the credits and cash proffers are proposed to be removed and FRLP would simply build what they are required to by Town Code and pay the County their cash proffer towards schools. Proffers related to impacts on the public school student population are not affected at all.

Specifics

Among changes are:

· The addition of per-unit cash proffers designated for costs of the new police headquarters;

· Elimination of cash proffers toward construction of Leach Run Parkway;

· Widening of a proposed on-site trail;

· Elimination of Energy Star Certification requirements for the units.

Among the deleted credits are: tap fee payments over $10,000; land value costs on both right-of-way for the access road to the property and piece of land along Shenandoah Shores Road needed for future road improvements in the vicinity of the development; and on engineering and construction costs associated with Phases 2 to 4 of an East-West connector road running through the property, if the Town follows through on construction of Phase 5 of that road.

The town planning director previously explained to Royal Examiner that that latter road-associated credit could equal or exceed all of FRLP’s proposed cash proffers. He also noted that removal of the tap fee credit locks FRLP into paying the going rate on tap fees, a rate currently in the vicinity of $15,000.

“Under the proposed proffers, FRLP would still be obligated to build and dedicate ROW for the portion of the access road (east-west connector) on their 149 acres,” Camp told Royal Examiner in December, adding, “As proposed, the rest of the road would be addressed with (development) of the future 604 acres.”