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Carson heirs located, will support FR Golf Club usage change request

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Honest, from this angle I don’t know why more people haven’t supported the Front Royal Golf Club as a scenic municipal golfing option. Photos/Front Royal Golf Club website

Warren County Circuit Court Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. has ordered the addition of court representatives for both unidentified heirs of the family that donated land for the county’s first golf course in 1938 and for the citizens of this community to whose benefit that land was donated.

At issue is a County petition for a declaratory judgment to allow it to remove golf as a use on the 62-acre Carson parcel the County acquired in 2005.  That parcel contains what is now known as the Front Royal Golf Club.  The Carsons donated the land in memory of their son, a former student at Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal who died prematurely in his early 20’s around the time of the gift.

“The Court will appoint one guardian ad litem for the unknown heirs of William and Agnes Carson and one guardian ad litem for the citizens of the Town of Front Royal and the County of Warren,” Whitten explained on June 29.

However, in a late-breaking development those “unknown heirs of Agnes H. Carson and William E. Carson” listed as “Whereabouts unknown” in the original county court filing, are no longer unknown.

County Administrator Doug Stanley told Royal Examiner on Tuesday, July 3, that he has made contact with some Carson descendants – and they have provided two letters of support of the county proposal that will be included in the court filing.

So it seems the case will not require one of those proposed guardian ad litems for persons or entities “unknown”.

As originally presented, the Warren County Board of Supervisors is listed as the petitioner against both the unknown heirs of the Carsons and the Front Royal Country Club (formerly known as the Recreational Center of Front Royal), the latter which were the original names of the managing entity for the golf club created by the Carson’s 1938 gift to the community.

A municipal ‘money-pit’

The fact the municipal golf club created in the wake of the 2005 acquisition of the riverside property has increasingly become a money pit has long been a sore point for some of the county’s elected officials (and I thought maybe they just didn’t like the name).

Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox has become increasingly vocal about the deficit the county has carried annually to keep the course open.  County Administrator Stanley estimated an average $110,000 annual deficit county taxes have gone to cover over the past five years.

Stanley said the club supported itself for the first several years of county ownership – “We were the low cost alternative” – but has increasingly suffered financially in recent years as golf courses around the nation have struggled to meet rising costs and competition.

From the banks of the Shenandoah River to the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge – just not a money maker

But as admitted in the County filing for a declaratory judgment to be allowed to remove golf as a use of the property, not only did the Carson family specify golf as a use to be maintained as a condition of the 1938 gift of the property; but a condition of the 2005 management agreement the County signed upon its purchase of the land ALSO specifies that “[t]he current nine (9) holes for golf located on the 62 Acre Parcel, will be used and maintained only for golf.”

However, the County contends that changing times make the golf designation obsolete.

Under the heading “The Restrictions on the Property are no Longer Needed” the County states 1/ “At the time of the conveyance of the Carson Property, there were no other golf courses in Warren County, and there was a need for a public golf course”; and 2/ “Currently there are four other golf courses in Warren County including Sly Fox Golf Club (18 holes), Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club (18 holes), Bowling Green Country Club (36 holes), and Shenandoah Valley Golf Club (27 holes).”

After noting that the Front Royal Golf Club is a 9-hole course that can be played as an 18-hole course by using varying tee positions, the county gets to its bottom line: “Membership at Front Royal Golf Club has declined since the County took over in 2005, and the costs are increasing to maintain the Golf Club to remain competitive with the other courses in the County,” adding that, “The Board has discussed closing down the Golf Club for the past several years during the budget process since the Golf Club has operated at a financial loss for the past several years.”

The Warren County Board of Supervisors and county staff have looked into outside management of the golf course for at least a year.  In its filing for the declaratory judgment allowing golf to be removed as a use on the property, the County notes that in 2017 it got one response to a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking an outside individual, group or business “to take over operations of the Golf Club through a lease agreement … but was not able to come to an agreement with the offeror.”

Asked if money had been the bottom line in that failure to come to terms, Stanley said, “I think it is fair to say that the parties could not come to agreeable terms – what they wanted for what we were giving up didn’t mesh.”

Following the collapse of that negotiation, the county filing states it issued another RFP that left future recreational usage of the property on the table.  “I think ideally we have sought a way that would maintain management of the golf course but it just has not happened,” Stanley points out.

And so it was with the response to that second, open-ended property management RFP.  The county cites receipt of a proposal in response to that second RFP “that would entail permanently closing the golf course and creating a park open to the public on the Property which could include but is not limited to walking, horse and biking trails, river access, a boat landing, and a field for recreational purposes.”

As a final nail in the golf coffin, the County pleading states, “The former golf course’s cart paths would be open to the public, and numerous trees would be planted in the former fairways and greens.”

OUCH – and I don’t even play golf.

But on the bright side, Stanley points out the County maintains an easement with Allegheny Power that connects the Carson parcel with the 19-acre Rockland Park that has a similar mixed-recreational-use profile – “And this will give us riverfront property for those uses,” Stanley points out.

Did the County do all it could?

We asked the county administrator to address several questions raised by some Front Royal Golf course users over the past year.  Those questions included whether county employees were allowed to play the course for free and if any revenue generated by the property was diverted to other County uses.

Stanley said neither was the case.  He estimated $350,000 being collected over the 3-1/2-year Dominion Power Plant construction project from property rentals.

“Since we took over management in 2005, we sold off a small portion and some easements for the new power lines, we leased part of the excess property to Dominion for a lay-down area for the power plant construction, and we have leased two smaller areas to contractors.  Every dime received either repaid the County for paying off the Club’s debt, for capital improvements, or to meet the bottom line of the club.”

Stanley did observe that in the past golf club staff or the club manager have been allowed to play for free (a situation he believes typical at any golf course), but other than that, “All County employees, myself included, have to pay to use the club.  For a couple years we did offer ANY Warren County resident one free play at certain times.”

But the “free” teaser did not work to attract the necessary number of members to support the Front Royal Golf Club financially.

And so today the county government is seeking court relief to cut loose what has become a financial drain on it and its taxpayers.  And it would appear another piece of the county’s history will succumb to changing times and changing circumstances.

But as Stanley notes, the gift of the Carson property will be maintained to recreational uses for the community in memory of their son, who was lost too young 80 years ago.

Postscript

A golfer and his dog – and we are sure he has ‘doggie bags’

From the Front Royal Golf Club website:

“One of Virginia’s oldest, continuously operating golf courses continues to be one of the best golf values in all of the Shenandoah Valley. Under the operation, direction, and management of Warren County, Front Royal Golf Club’s 1938 nine-hole layout features dual tee boxes to create a true 18-hole feel.

“Front Royal has the old Scottish links-style feel that requires accuracy not length. Challenges come from small undulating greens and deep bunkering. Four holes border the Shenandoah River, more than any course in Virginia, with none more dramatic than the par 5 seventeenth hole that features a tee shot along the river’s edge.  Front Royal Golf Club brings back the 4-hour round of golf. It’s a fun and excellent test of golf you will surely enjoy.

“The facility was originally constructed in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps on land donated by William Carson with the course built to his design. The current club house, built in 1998 to replace the original rustic CCC clubhouse lost in the flood of 1996. It hosts a snack bar, commercial kitchen and banquet hall.”

Somehow it just seems a shame.

Local News

Petco donates $25K to Humane Society of Warren County: New shelter director explains where most of the money is spent

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These two Julia Wagner shelter dogs, the miniature pug Ophelia (Barr) and Max (Coolidge), the boxer, in a post-adoption meeting at Ophelia’s (Rockland) home – Photo/Malcolm Barr

Following a year of missteps and tragedy, bravely fought through by the Board of Directors of the Humane Society of Warren County (HSWC), 2019 launched in a new and encouraging direction – highlighted last week by a $25,000 Petco donation – under revived humane society and animal shelter management.

HSWC Board President Ellen Aders announced what she called “the most generous donation by Petco” on Saturday, February 16, the day after Executive Director Meghan Bowers delivered an upbeat, maiden speech to the Rotary Club of Front Royal just two months after her appointment. Bowers came to the Warren County Humane Society from an animal rescue operation in Aldie, Virginia.

Early last year, when members were called in to receive assurances that the HSWC was not being allowed, as some had complained, to “go to the dogs,” Aders and her board stepped up to the plate and pulled the society from its downward spiral, culminating in the appointment of Bowers as HSWC executive director. Bowers and new Julia Wagner Animal Shelter Manager Kayla Wines tenures included a four-month saga involving the rescue of 30 dogs and cats from an embattled former breeding kennel operation. The animals were recently released for adoption.

“Hard work and dedication has paid off,” said Aders. “Our board has worked tirelessly doing things that most boards never have to do. For example, I’d never written a grant before but ‘somebody had to do it’ and that’s how we functioned before Meghan joined us (in December) … like, somebody has to do it … and everyone stepped up!”

Bowers, who includes successful community outreach as one of her goals, gave her first speech locally to Front Royal Rotarians last Friday (February 15), recounting her initial few weeks on the job and providing her priorities in the work before her.

She emphasized the importance of “our TNR program” which is shorthand for the “Trap, Spay and Neuter” of stray or feral cats. “It is the only proven effective and humane method of dealing with feral cat populations, of which there are many in this area,” she said.

Cats need love too – as this dog seems to understand. Public Domain Photo/Pixabay

TNR involves trapping feral cats, vaccinating, spaying or neutering them, and returning them to their colony. The program fast reduces feral cat populations.

She admitted TNR has “always been a little bit controversial, with opinions ranging from “kill all feral cats” to “bring them to the shelter and adopt them out (TNA).” She chose TNR over TNA as the doable middle ground and called on the service club and the general public to help support the program to bring the burgeoning problem of feral cats under control. The cost is high – $80 to catch, fix, and release each cat.

Even in a down year, HSWC did many things right – reunited 270 lost animals with their owners; adopted out 900 animals over the previous 12 months; spayed or neutered 6,000 animals through a low-cost partnership with the Ancira Veterinary Clinic; and according to Bowers’ statistical report also maintained the Wagner Shelter’s “no kill” status.

To better meet the already high overhead of operating the72-year-old shelter, Bowers described a new way of donating. It is through the “HSWC Legacy Giving Program.” This involves including the animal shelter in a will.

“Lasting gifts such as this help us better plan for the future and give us peace of mind and stability,” she said.

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New beginnings for Rita Rutledge as an active agent with Century 21 Campbell Realty

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Local real estate expert, Rita Rutledge, is once again available to serve you directly after 20+ years in real estate management! As a managing broker, Rita helped many new agents launch successful careers at Weichert Realtors. Now it’s her turn for a new beginning by aligning with Century 21 Campbell Realty. This strategic alignment has created a unique (powerhouse) brokerage with over 80 years of experience just between Broker Jeannette Campbell (1978) and agent Rita Rutledge (1979)!

Born a coal miner’s daughter in McDowell, WV, Rita learned about hard work and dedication to family. It is at this time she also developed her special sparkle and infectious positive attitude that has proven to be a true Rita quality for those who know her. At age 11, the family moved to Abingdon, VA where she remembers attending a modest 2 room elementary school with no indoor plumbing! After graduating John Battle High School, Rita married her childhood sweetheart in 1963 and started a family.

In 1979, Rita decided to pursue a career in real estate which would give her the flexibility needed as she continued to raise her family.  Keeping true to her life motto, “Education is everything,” Rita achieved a great education from Lord Fairfax Community College in Real Estate Brokerage and all associated business branches. In 1984, she completed her Broker’s license. At this point, the industry did not have many female agents in the Shenandoah Valley. Rita explains, “It was a battle at times to break into the man’s world of real estate.” With a lot of perseverance and that positive attitude, Rita not only achieved her goal to become a real estate professional, she was one of the top listing agents of the area supporting 20+ listings at one time.

When looking to the future, Rita expresses excitement at the thought of reconnecting with old friends from the industry. She has enjoyed getting back out on the road and discovering new places with buyers. If you are looking for a unique opportunity to work directly with one of the most experienced agents in our local real estate industry, you just might want to turn to Rita.

 

Rita Rutledge, Associate Broker
Licensed in real estate from 1979 – Present

  • Mt Vernon/Weichert Realtors from 1985 – 2019
  • Weichert Realtors Managing Broker 1996 – 2017
  • Century 21 Campbell Realty 2019 – Present

Century 21 Campbell Realty
408 South Royal Ave | Front Royal, VA 22630
Cell: (540) 671-0016 | Office: (540) 636-2971
ritarutledgebroker@gmail.com

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Warren County School Board calls special meeting

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The Warren County School Board called a special meeting on February 13th to hear Superintendent Greg Drescher overview of PayPoint Compensation Study and the report on the Compensation and Benefits Study.

Drescher indicated that all of the work on these studies is about being competitive in the local market and not being done to just pay people more money. The local market includes all of the school divisions that touch Warren County and the City of Winchester. He also said that in order for WCPS to attract and retain a quality workforce, WCPS needs to offer competitive pay and benefits.

Download the Studies:

Royal Examiner’s camera was there:

 

Related story: Warren County School Board Public Hearing on FY 2020 Budget 

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I-66 Outside the Beltway Project: Lane closures and traffic changes week of February 17, 2019

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What’s Happening

As weather conditions allow, crews will continue corridor wide roadway maintenance and address issues as needed, with daily multi-lane closures during daytime and overnight hours on eastbound and westbound I-66. Additional construction activities include:

  • Constructing bridge abutments at Route 28 and I-495 interchanges
  • Constructing box culverts inside the Route 123 Interchange for shared-use path
  • Constructing retaining walls near Jermantown Road and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road)
  • Grading, excavating, clearing trees and brush, and drainage installation at the Route 28, Route 123, Route 50 and I-495 interchanges, and other work zone location along the corridor
  • Clearing trees and brush at the future Balls Ford Park and Ride Lot near Manassas
  • Grading, excavating, and small charge blasting for storm drain trenches at the future University Boulevard Park and Ride Lot
  • Grading and excavating for the new E.C. Lawrence Park Access Road
  • Relocating underground and overhead utilities along I-66 and Route 28

The Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project will add express lanes stretching 22.5 miles from the Capital Beltway to Route 29 in Gainesville, rebuild major interchanges along the I-66 corridor, create thousands of new park and ride spaces, and expand trail options for cyclists and pedestrians. Learn more at Transform66.org.

Upcoming Lane Closures and Traffic Changes

The following planned lane closures are expected to have significant traffic impacts. All work is subject to change based on weather and schedule. Find the latest information on travel conditions and work zones by visiting 511virginia.org or downloading the Virginia511 app.


ROUTE 29 (LEE HIGHWAY) / GAINESVILLE

Route 29 North and South between Heathcote Boulevard and University Boulevard

  • Thursday, February 21, and Friday, February 22: 11 a.m. to Noon
  • Traffic will be temporarily stopped for up to 15 minutes for small charge blasting operations at the future Park and Ride Lot. Additionally, the ramp from I-66 West to Route 29 North (Exit 43B) will be temporarily closed for 15 minutes beginning at 11 a.m.

ROUTE 234 BUSINESS (SUDLEY ROAD) / MANASSAS

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 28 (SULLY ROAD) / CENTREVILLE

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 286 (FAIRFAX COUNTY PARKWAY)

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 50 / FAIRFAX

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 123 (CHAIN BRIDGE ROAD) / OAKTON – CITY OF FAIRFAX

  • No significant traffic impacts are scheduled.

ROUTE 243 (NUTLEY STREET) / VIENNA

I-66 East and West from I-459 to Route 243 (Nutley Street)

  • Friday, February 22, and Saturday, February 23: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Three lanes will be closed with periodic 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 5 a.m. to remove an overhead sign gantry.

I-495 (CAPITAL BELTWAY)

I-66 East and West from I-459 to Route 243 (Nutley Street)

  • Friday, February 22, and Saturday, February 23: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Three lanes will be closed with periodic 20-minute stoppages between midnight and 5 a.m. to remove an overhead sign gantry.

Commuter Alternatives

VDOT and the project team have invested in a broad range of programs to help commuters and others stay mobile and safe during construction. Learn more about carpool, vanpool, telework, and commuter bus alternatives.

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Tim Ratigan announces to run for South River Supervisor

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Mike McCool, Royal Examiner Publisher speaks with South River resident Tim Ratigan and his plans to run for the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams.

Tim Ratigan announces his run to fill the South River spot on the Board of Supervisors. Tim stopped by our studios to speak with Royal Examiner publisher Mike McCool:

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Front Royal-Warren County: The canoe AND viewpoint ‘Capital of Virginia’

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Cullers Overlook, (Andy Guest) Shenandoah River State Park; from the Matador story – ‘Take a drive to Shenandoah River State Park and make a quick left onto Overnight Road, where a small parking lot sits next to the best lookout in the state.’ Photos from Matador article as attributed/Shenandoah River State Park/Facebook

Well, a sitting vice president once christened Front Royal/Warren County “the Canoe Capital of Virginia” – thanks, Al. But now – during a tourism report to the Warren County Board of Supervisors on February 5, Front Royal Community Development and Tourism Director Felicia Hart noted that Culler’s Overlook at Andy Guest-Shenandoah River State Park had been cited as the number one view point in Virginia accessible without necessity of a long or grueling hike. This reporter had previously been made aware of the designation by a shared Facebook post of congratulations to the community by an old friend and fellow past travel explorer “Joe Ball” aka Bob Mason.

The designation came as part of the Matador Network’s survey of “The Best Scenic Viewpoints in The United States that you can drive to”. And the Cullers Overlook panorama selected by Matador Network as one of the 50 best drivable-to view-sheds – one in each state – is a magnificent representation of this community’s natural assets; and certainly one the Commonwealth of Virginia can be proud of.

The Matador Network website <matadornetwork.com> describes itself as “a tribe of millions of travelers across the globe with an unquenchable thirst for adventure and exploration” – not a bad viewing base for a little tourism promotion WORLDWIDE!!! (as of publication the referenced story could be reached at <matadornetwork.com/read/roadside-viewpoint-every-state> or simply by searching the web at “best scenic viewpoints” with “best scenic viewpoints in the United States you can drive to” being the first find we encountered).

Screenshot from the Matador Network website, matadornetwork.com.

“Having the added exposure by the Matador Network is a win/win for Front Royal/Warren County. We love being able to take advantage of stories such as this,” Hart told Royal Examiner in response to a question about the designation. “Thousands will see the image of Cullers Overlook and be made aware of all that we have to offer. To stop and realize that out of all the scenic overlooks in the State of Virginia, Matador choose us, makes us extremely proud – and as an added bonus, we didn’t even have to pay for this exposure.”

We asked Hart if there was any special effort that brought the community’s natural tourism assets to the Matador Network’s attention.

“We regularly participate in Help A Reporter Out (HARO) requests when they are looking for stories, ideas, and photography. We have a number of travel writers that will be coming through our community soon – as they always do – so we’ll make sure that they are able to see and learn about all that our community has to offer.”

Hart pointed to economic benefits to the community peripheral to an increase in tourism numbers, potentially from the world over.

“In addition, stories such as this help not only our tourism numbers – heads in beds lodging tax, meals tax, etcetera – it works to draw potential businesses to our community. Whether they are smaller Mom/Pop shops – outfitter or such – or bigger businesses that are looking for quality of life for themselves and their employees – they are made aware of Front Royal/Warren County.

“With regards to how we used the story – not only did we ‘push’ the story out via our social media, the State of Virginia tourism shared it. Several of the Virginia Welcome Centers also ‘pushed it’ out via their social media. A group that we are partners in, the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Partnership … shared the story too.

“We worked hard to maximize the exposure to this story. It’s one thing for us to brag about ourselves, but when we can get an “outsider” to say it, now it has real value to someone reading the story. And of course, local newspaper stories are always appreciated,” Hart said.

You’re welcome, Felicia.

As a teaser to visit the Matador site and story, here are a few other entries – trust us, there are some of astonishing, non-manmade natural beauty, both like and very different from our own entry:

Atigun Pass, Brooks Range Alaska: from Matador, ‘Dalton Highway is not so much an overlook as an immersive glacial mountain experience’ – I guess it’s good we hiked Alaska in the summer, JoeBall – or that we flew over the Brooks Range on way to Anaktuvuk Pass for slightly lower-elevated points north – Photo/Leonie Wharton

Then there are your more urban view-sheds, here Watson Island between Miami and Miami Beach, Florida – Photo/Chris LaBasco/Shuttercock

Or New Jersey’s pick, from Liberty State Park with a panoramic view of the New York City skyline – Photo/Dorbis/Shutterstock

Or Felicia, imagine you had ‘Carhenge’ to work with – Photo/Nebraska Tourism

And just in case you doubted us on the natural beauty teaser – above is Montana’s Heaven’s Peak Outlook; and below a little close to home for my mom, Looking Glass Rock, North Carolina near her hometown of Asheville. Photo/tusharkoley/Shutterstock & ExploreAsheville.com

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