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Could Town-EDA disagreement over dynamics of Afton Inn sale kill redevelopment plan?

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During the Asset Committee report at Friday’s Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority meeting, the Town of Front Royal, specifically through its legal department, was accused of “obstructing” the closing process on the sale that would allow redevelopment of the historic Afton Inn site to proceed at the head of the town’s Historic Downtown Business District.

“2 East Main, the contract purchasers of the Afton Inn, continues to work toward a settlement by the end of December. The Town of Front Royal, via their legal department, has begun obstructing this process by not cooperating with requests made by both 2 East Main and the EDA,” Asset Committee Chairman Greg Harold stated in his December 4th meeting agenda written report.

Greg Harold during the Dec. 4 EDA Board virtual meeting. His Asset Committee report highlighted a recent email exchange between potential Afton Inn developer 2 E. Main St. LLC and Town Attorney Doug Napier expressing the opinion the EDA cannot finalize the sale without written Town approval, which apparently has not been given. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Harold’s Asset Committee report on the status of the Afton Inn sale that would facilitate redevelopment observed, “The EDA’s sole ambition in this sale is to remove it from our asset book by selling it to a private developer that is qualified and capable of rebuilding this historic structure to the benefit of the entire community, including the Town Administrative Offices that sits adjacent to this currently dilapidated building.”


Royal Examiner called Harold following the 10:40 a.m. adjournment of Friday’s EDA Board of Directors meeting to seek more information on the impasse between the Town and EDA over the sale and redevelopment of the Afton Inn property. Harold referred us to Board Chairman Jeff Browne as point man on the EDA’s effort to solicit cooperation from the Town of Front Royal governmental apparatus to facilitate the long-pending sale to redeveloper 2 East Main Street LLC.

Contacted by phone, Browne explained that the 2 East Main Street development partnership and its title company had sought legal assurance from the Town that it agreed to the pending sale. The Town Attorney’s November 30th email reply to 2 East Main and the involved title company – the EDA was not copied in Napier’s response, Browne noted – disputed the EDA’s ability to sell the property to the development group without the Town’s written consent, consent apparently not yet given. Napier referenced a 2014 Land Exchange Agreement (LEA) and Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in making the assertion, Browne said. That was a condition of the referenced 2014 MOA, he explained.

With Town Hall’s proximity to the derelict Afton Inn, one is left to wonder why the town council would not have already endorsed the EDA sale for redevelopment.

In response to this assertion the EDA Board of Directors is preparing a response to town officials, including the mayor, council, and town manager, seeking a meeting of all involved parties as soon as possible to resolve the impasse to everyone’s mutual benefit, Browne told Royal Examiner. The EDA and 2 East Main Street LLC hope to have the sale closed by the end of the calendar year.

Town perspective

In an email response to our inquiry on the matter, Town Attorney Doug Napier explained his and apparently the town council and its governmental apparatus’s stance.

That stance is that the EDA has simply been a real estate broker for the Town in dealing with the Afton Inn property. “The EDA itself never had any skin in the game. The Town was never about to ‘give’ the EDA a million-dollar piece of property in the form of Old Town Hall for nothing, that would be insane,” Napier wrote, perhaps highballing the 2014 assessment a bit in referencing the eventual EDA-enabled 2014 swap of the old Town Hall building the town government had outgrown, for the Afton Inn in order to facilitate its marketing and redevelopment.

The town attorney and interim town manager at a recent council meeting. Questions may have risen through EDA Board discussion as to whether there are sufficient communications between staff and council and the mayor on the status of the EDA’s attempt to sell the Afton Inn for redevelopment.

Perhaps coincidentally, that swap was bitterly opposed by then citizen Matt Tederick who repeatedly appeared before the town council to berate the swap idea. That idea was hatched to get the Afton property out of the hands of its owner, Northern Virginia developer Frank Barros. Barros let the property languish for several years, refusing to take calls from the Town about the property after the town council had alienated him, in part by suing its own Board of Zoning Appeals to overturn its code exception granted to allow Barros’s elaborate Afton Inn redevelopment plan to increase the height of the building to about 10-feet above the height of the County Courthouse across the street. Building above the height of the courthouse was and remains against Town Code.

“For many years the Town had been trying to get the owner of the Afton Inn to fix up that building, but could get nowhere with the owner,” Napier wrote in his December 4th reply to our inquiry on the current sale impasse, adding, “Town Council had an idea to exchange Old Town Hall for the Afton Inn, but it is difficult for local governments to do real estate investment deals on its own under the Code of Virginia, a big reason EDAs exist in the first place … The title company doing the real estate closing agrees with me. It’s the law, as well as the facts of the case. There is no real controversy here at all.”

No real controversy here?

However, the EDA Board of Directors and its legal counsel do not agree.

The 2014 Land Exchange Agreement and Memorandum of Agreement referenced above by EDA Chairman Browne were attached by Napier to his reply to us to bolster his contention the EDA does not own outright and cannot sell the Afton property without the Town’s written authority.

However, Harold pointed us to a December 1st email from EDA attorney Sharon Pandak in response to Napier’s November 30 reply to 2 East Main Street LLC and its title company seeking the Town’s signing off on its purchase contract with the EDA. In the letter, Pandak counters Napier’s conclusion and the developer’s title company’s concurrence with it. – The short version:

1 – the 2014 MOA, which came after the LEA, was never signed by an EDA representative; and

2 – the Town was not a party to the Lease Exchange Agreement in which Barros’s Afton Inn LLC conveyed the Afton property directly to the EDA.

The complete explanation of the EDA stance penned by the EDA attorney elaborates:
“As I indicated to you … previously, we do not believe that 2 East Main LLC’s current title company’s (Chicago/Champion Title Company) position is meritorious. The EDA can convey “good and marketable fee simple and unencumbered title” to the Afton Inn for the following key reasons:

1 – The conveyance to East Main is not for a required “future purpose” under the Memorandum of Agreement between the Town and the EDA, dated June 23, 2014 (MOA). The MOA, if operative, relates to future use of the Afton Inn, and is not a limitation on the EDA’s ability to convey the property. Therefore, the MOA, if operative, simply does not apply.

2 – The MOA was signed by the Town after the conveyance of the property by the Town to the EDA (June 11, 2014). The agreement is not signed by the EDA.

3 – The Land Exchange Agreement (LEA) between the EDA and Afton Inn, LLC conveyed the Afton Inn to the EDA. The Town was not a party to LEA, and the land never passed through Town ownership to get to EDA ownership. There are no restrictions on the EDA’s use or future conveyance in the LEA. The LEA precedes the incomplete MOA,” Pandak wrote. But she wasn’t finished countering the Town stance.

Two perspectives of March 2019 Town-permitted work on the Afton Inn related to the 2 E. Main St. LLC redevelopment plan. If the Front Royal Town Council finally authorizes the EDA sale to the developer, within a year or so the site might be worth a second look from the town trolley.

“There are other reasons for believing that the Town Attorney’s recently expressed opinion is not well-taken which include: The Town has already issued permits to 2 East Main for some work on the Afton Inn and the Town has implicitly approved 2 East Main’s proposed redevelopment by including it in its VDHR (Virginia Department of Historic Resources) grant application (resulting in the Town’s Community Development Block Grant – CDBG award from the State). These actions indicate a Town approval of the ‘future purpose’ by 2 East Main for the Afton Inn, if the MOA is operative. Mr. Napier also does not acknowledge that the EDA gave the Town notice of its Purchase Contract with 2 East Main on June 16, 2020, directly and through him.

“The Title Company’s requirement to have the Town of Front Royal provide consent to the transaction is not well-grounded for the reasons set forth above,” Pandak concludes.

Delaying sale to what end?

Asked what investment the EDA has made in marketing and moving the Afton Inn property toward redevelopment since acquiring it in 2014, Brown and Harold both pointed to $478,000 in various legal, closing, and developmental costs, including masonry work to shore up the crumbling building as its sale and redevelopment have stalled. The sale price if made this month will be $345,000. Had it been made by September it would have been $325,000. So, the EDA is not looking to even recoup its total investment in the property, which means the Town would not be eligible to collect any proceeds from the sale according to the disputed MOA were it ruled to be enforceable without an EDA signature on it.

Bullet point 5D of the MOA states the “EDA shall be entitled to retain from the sales proceeds an amount equal to any sum it has paid without reimbursement from the Town during its ownership, management, maintenance, repairs and marketing for sale or lease of the Afton Inn property.”

So, one might wonder why the Town is stalling on endorsing the EDA’s sale to 2 East Main Street LLC after past permitting of work related to the 2 East Main Street development plan and referencing that plan in its CDBG application.

“Their stonewalling this sale only hurts them and the community,” a perplexed Harold told Royal Examiner. Following conversations with 2 East Main principals Alan Omar and Jim Burton, the EDA Asset Committee chairman said, “I am fully confident 2 East Main Street wants to move forward and are willing to develop the property to the betterment of the community in a way that will make it a cornerstone of historic downtown Front Royal. We are willing to broker communications and we’ve both tried to work with the Town to realize this project since September.

“If this sale can’t occur because of obstruction by the Town we are going to execute any leverage we can to covey the property if this falls thru,” Harold said of the EDA, including acquiring a demolition permit “to keep all available options at our disposal”.

Harold’s written report to his board Friday morning added a call for public action to add another dimension to EDA Board Chairman Browne’s effort to bring all involved parties to the table for a mutually beneficial resolution before the year’s end.

“The community should start lobbying Town Council to allow this sale to commence without further delay or disruption. This is critical both from a safety standpoint as stated by Town Attorney Doug Napier and from an aesthetic standpoint being the corner of historic downtown Front Royal. Delaying the sale and settlement places additional unnecessary risk to public money in the maintenance and public security of this building which has been previously stated by the Town Attorney as the responsibility of the Town taxpayer.”

The EDA Board of Directors hopes a new face and perspective on the scene, new Town Manager Steven Hicks who begins work Monday, Dec. 7, might mean a new day in the EDA-Town relationship. Hicks was lauded by the council for his work in Selma, N.C. on a redevelopment project.

During subsequent open meeting discussion Friday morning, board member Tom Pattison suggested “reaching out” to new Town Manager Steven Hicks, who begins the transition from Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick on Monday, December 7, in an attempt to re-establish a meaningful relationship with the town government. That relationship has deteriorated into expensive hostile civil litigation and an absence of communications under Tederick and the current town council majority over the past year-plus. While a spot for a “Town Manager’s Report” has remained on the monthly EDA Board meeting agenda, as has been the case for much of 2020, no town manager or designee was present virtually to deliver that report Friday morning despite the Town’s continued legal partnership with Warren County in the operational oversight of the half-century-old joint County-Town EDA.

EDA Board Chairman Jeff Brown and the five-member quorum present virtually concurred with Doctor Pattison’s notion of attempting to restore a meaningful relationship with the town government with the coming personnel change at the head of the Front Royal Administrative network.

While we didn’t get a call back from Mayor Tewalt, we did reach Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock about the EDA board discussion of “Town obstructionism” in finalizing the Afton sale to 2 East Main Street. Sealock said his last recollection of council discussion of the proposed sale to 2 East Main Street LLC group was when the September option date was missed.

The vice mayor also expressed disappointment council and the mayor wasn’t included in the EDA communications with town staff over the project. “I’m very upset – we’re the ones who would decide these things,” Sealock said of Town approval or endorsement of the sale.

Above, in the wake of his proactive work bringing council and the Save Happy Creek Coalition together could Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock find himself at the point of helping correct another possible communication breakdown in Town affairs? EDA Board Chair Jeff Browne, below at Friday’s virtual EDA meeting, hopes to aid in bridging any communications gaps between the council, the EDA, and the Afton Inn redevelopment group.

 

“I’d be happy to do that,” EDA Board Chairman Browne said when told of Sealock’s observation, adding that he had personally been involved in several “reach outs” to council and the interim town manager in past efforts to resolve issues surrounding finalization of the Afton sale. And as reported above, he is planning to have a letter to all involved parties, including council and the mayor out by early in the coming week.

And he noted that the recent email exchange with the town attorney came from 2 East Main LLC and its title company’s direct effort to seek assurance the Town would endorse the EDA sale of the property, not from an EDA inquiry.

So, it seems the EDA, the Front Royal Town Council, and mayor, and 2 East Main Street LLC principals and staff will have an opportunity in coming weeks to sit down and get on the same page philosophically and legally to the joint benefit of the entire community. Will they be able to pull it off?

Stay tuned as the Afton Inn redevelopment project perhaps reaches a point of no return if a sale is not finalized within the next three weeks.

Can council reach a quick consensus that an EDA sale of the Afton Inn property to 2 E. Main LLC for redevelopment is a good thing for the community? One might wonder why that consensus hasn’t already been reached.

 

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EDA in Focus

EDA completes audits for 2018 and 2019; 2020 audit is next

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The Board of Directors of the Front Royal and Warren County Economic Development Authority accepted its audited financial statements for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, today, October 5, 2021. The audit of the financial statements was conducted by the firm of Brown Edwards, CPAs of Harrisonburg, VA.

“We have received the final outside audits conducted for 2018 and 2019,” said EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne.  “This was a huge effort on the part of Brown Edwards, and they have done very good work in challenging circumstances. Getting these two financial audits completed is a major step forward in putting the EDA’s past difficulties behind us. Now we can better focus on economic development issues to benefit the community.”

“The auditors’ letter points to three areas for improvement of internal controls,” Browne said. “It was important to make each improvement recommended by the CPAs, and we have done just that. The Warren County staff now administer the check-writing duties, collection of rents, and have layers of approvals for expenses within EDA and the County administration that were not there three years ago.”

The audited financial statements show that, at the end of the fiscal year 2019, the EDA’s total net assets were $38,036,737, and its net liabilities were $44,575,435, resulting in a deficit net position of $6,538,698. The EDA will work with Warren County’s auditors starting with the fiscal year 2020, which audit can now be undertaken.


Final Financial Statement 10-5-21

Final Letter to governance

 The EDA Board of Directors will have their next regular monthly board meeting via Zoom on Friday, October 29, 2021, at 9 a.m.

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EDA reminds rental tenants, Small Business Loan Program clients to now send payments to WCGC

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Starting October 1, 2021, the Warren County Finance Department will take over and manage payments made to the EDA for rents and the Small Business Loan Program (RBEL and IRP). The EDA will no longer be accepting payments at their office or office address.

Please continue to make your check or money order to the EDA. You must hand-carry or send your payments to:

Warren County Government
ATTN: Finance Department
220 N. Commerce Ave.
Front Royal, VA 22630

Any payments sent to the EDA will be returned. As a result, you may incur fees for late payment. We appreciate your cooperation. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


(Press Release)

 

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EDA briefed on structural and legal options in closed session; gets open session updates on committee work during transition phases

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The EDA Board of Directors met Friday, September 24, for their regular monthly meeting. The Board went into closed session for approximately 90 minutes to discuss transition, personnel, 2018- 2019 draft audits, loan restructuring, and disposition of property. The Board returned to open session at approximately 10:20 a.m. Jeff Browne, EDA Chair, opened the session with an overview of the transition. Browne asked each board member to report on their assigned transition project.

EDA Board Chair Jeff Browne, red shirt at the head of the EDA ‘roundtable’, prepares to get committee chair reports on their work as the EDA transitions toward new staff and possibly a new administrative structure under consideration by the County Supervisors. Supervisors Chair Cheryl Cullers and Walt Mabe were present for the briefings. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Search Committee-Transition: Dr. Tom Patteson, reported the committee met and reviewed applications. Three applications were submitted to the county administrator. The county and EDA will work together in selecting replacements for the Administrative Assistant and Executive Director.

Finance Committee-Transition: Jim Wolfe reported the “numbers” on the 2108 and 2019 audits are final. Jim Wolfe stated the management letter will be revised and recommended a special meeting for next week to finalize and accept the audits for 2018 and 2019. The Board agreed and the date of the meeting will be announced. Mr. Wolfe will also be meeting with the finance personnel at the county in the next several weeks.


Marketing Committee-Transition: Scott Jenkins, Chair reported the 38-page PowerPoint presentation is complete. The marketing material can be tailored to specific clients. The marketing is targeted on the Core Industries: Advance Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics, Information Technologies, and Food Processing. Scott reviewed documents and key data. The marketing material is organized and stored on the EDA network. The September Marketing Committee report included other updates and visions including Small Business opportunities, focus on the Strategic Plan, and marketing opportunities with VEDP, Site Selector Guild, and Trade shows in 2022.

Administration Committee-Transition: Jorie Martin reported Gretchen Henderson prepared an Operation Manual for future reference. The manual is detailed in all the operations of the office including resources to use. The new administrative assistant as well as the EDA Board are well prepared to transition smoothly. Mrs. Martin reported The EDA now has the capability to update portions of the website in-house. This week a meeting section was added so the public can go to the site and see upcoming meetings.

Jorie Martin launches into her Administration Committee report, noting that departed Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson had prepared what she termed ‘a bible’ for EDA administrative operations for her successor, wherever they are located, to work from. Below, Asset Committee Chair Greg Harold reported the development of ‘The Stage Gate’, a comprehensive document standardizing the process for disposition of EDA-held property.

Asset Committee: Greg Harold reported the transition and updates on the assets of the EDA were complete. Doug Parsons worked closely to make sure all projects are up to date.

Greg Harold presented the Project Management – Stage-Gate: The Stage-Gate is a comprehensive document standardizing the process for disposition of property. The document will be reviewed and discussed at length at the October board meeting.

Motions coming out of Closed Session: The Board approved the technical revisions to the EDA By-Laws adopted at the August meeting. The Board approved the Board Chair, and Secretary to sign documents for the restructuring of the EDA debt with First Bank and Trust. All documents will be reviewed by legal counsel.

Other items that the Board of Directors addressed included an expression of gratitude for all the work done by Executive Director, Doug Parsons. Jeff Browne expressed and the boards’ appreciation for all the hard work and effort to bring the EDA where it is today. Through Doug’s efforts, the EDA has sold property, expanded business, and brought new business to the town and county.

The next monthly EDA Board Meeting is scheduled for October 22, 2021.

 

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County moves toward restructured EDA staffing in hopes of restored municipal cooperation – 6 CUPs approved, 5 for short-term tourist rentals

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At its meeting of Tuesday evening, September 21st, the Warren County Board of Supervisors made the first official move toward an altered structure of its, and the Town’s, Economic Development Authority futures. That move was unanimous 5-0 approval, on a motion by Delores Oates, seconded by Walt Mabe, of County Administrator Ed Daley’s presentation of a “Request to Create a Warren County Office of Economic Development”. As reported in our recent story, County work session takes unexpected turn on EDA front – ‘Reunited’ operational option broached, the supervisors elected to have Daley forwarded an idea originally slated for Closed Session discussion at a September 14 work session, in open session that day. That idea is to have an Economic Development Director’s staff position under the municipal government umbrella, rather than as a staff position hired by the board of an independent Economic Development Authority (EDA), albeit an EDA board appointed by the municipal government or governments that created it.

In response to Tony Carter’s question about involving the existing EDA Board in this restructuring process, County Administrator Ed Daley, below, said they were alerted to the potential of it prior to Doug Parsons announced resignation. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

As we understand it from subsequent conversations with Daley following last week’s supervisors’ work session, that in-house EDA director’s position would work in the best interest of both the county’s municipal governments, networking what it appears at this point will continue to evolve into two unilateral Town and County EDAs. Now theoretically, both the existing WC EDA and FREDA – the Front Royal EDA that is in the interview stage of establishing a board of directors – could create their own independent Offices of Economic Development with their own executive directors. But the impetus after last Thursday’s resurrected Town-County Liaison Committee meeting appears to be to work together to select an executive director who will work to the mutual benefit of both municipalities while networking with two EDA Boards of Directors.

Confusing? Perhaps – but it would cut payment of the six-figure salary range position in half if both municipalities could agree on the concept and a person to fill that conceptual central administrative position. For with a statewide trend toward regional EDA cooperation in a highly competitive economic development environment, what future would this community’s economic development have with dueling EDAs competing, not only with other regional governments’ economic development structures but with each other’s, particularly when the WC EDA has control of significant portions of economic development properties inside the town limits?


The answer to that question has, perhaps, already been given in the pending October 1st departure of WC EDA Executive Director Doug Parsons, to a county directly to our east where as one local observed upon hearing the news, “Warrenton isn’t suing Fauquier County” (or perhaps more accurately, its EDA).

And a move toward “us and us” from “us versus them” in County-Town relations was a reoccurring theme for several supervisors involved in last week’s first Liaison Committee meeting since January. Both Board Chair Cheryl Cullers and Delores Oates commented on the positive feeling they carried out of that meeting that the deteriorated relationship featuring hostile litigation involving the Town and existing WC EDA, and canceled face-to-face meetings of elected officials on matters of mutual interest, might be turning a corner. Of course, as the third county board member at that Liaison Committee meeting, Walt Mabe, wondered during it: Why can’t we return to one, re-tooled EDA working to both the County’s and Town’s benefit, with one executive director not alleged to have had their hands in both municipalities’ economic development pockets?

And in a loosely related item, as part of the September 24th WC EDA monthly board meeting, departing Executive Director Doug Parsons’ last, the agenda includes the information that the long-awaited 2018 and 2019 EDA audits have been completed by the contracted auditing company and are awaiting EDA Board approval. Stay tuned for more developments on the auditing front. – Maybe the completed audits could even establish exactly how much of whose money went where and is owed to who by whom, negating the necessity for the continued dueling Town-WC EDA civil litigations. As previously reported, the sitting council ignored then-Mayor Gene Tewalt’s 2019 advice to accept the offer of the WC EDA to sit down with accountants rather than attorneys to follow the money to establish exactly who was owed what on the back end of the EDA’s now $62-million-dollar financial scandal.

Shenandoah Shores Short-Term Tourist Rental applicants Jilian Greenfield and Richard Butcher brought the supporting ‘troops’ comprised largely of neighbors in support of their application to head off any continuation of a questionable Shores POA assertion the use was forbidden by neighborhood covenants. The Public Hearing count was 13-0 in support of their proposal, which passed unanimously.

But off that “movie script”, in other business the supervisors approved six Conditional Use Permit (CUP) requests Tuesday, five for Short-Term Tourist Rentals, and one for alterations to a Kennel Permit. See all these discussions, public comments, and votes in the County video; and see the meeting agenda cover page with the full list of CUP application public hearings linked here:

 

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County work session takes unexpected turn on EDA front – ‘Reunited’ operational option broached

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What had been an hour-plus work session update on Capital Improvement Projects (CIPs) by County Project Manager Jeff Hayes took an unexpected turn about an hour and a quarter into that work session at the conclusion of Hayes PowerPoint presentation. I say “unexpected” because the only open session agenda cover sheet item was Hayes’ CIP report. However, the board elected to take what was labeled “Closed Session” discussion of “Personnel re: Economic Development Authority” into open session discussion.

What followed was County Administrator Ed Daley’s presentation on organizational opportunities presented by the pending October 1st loss of the second and final member of the two-person EDA staff. As previously reported, following Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson’s August 27 departure to the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, Executive Director Doug Parsons announced his resignation, effective October 1, to take the EDA executive director’s job in Fauquier County.

Warren County Administrator Ed Daley explains the operational dynamics of realigning the EDA staff within the County’s administrative structure inside the WCGC. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

And what Daley presented to the board in open session echoed what EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne told Royal Examiner in the wake of the pending loss of the entire EDA staff – this can be an opportunity, rather than a derailing of the EDA’s recovery from the multi-million-dollar financial scandal uncovered in 2018-19 under previous executive and board leadership. And while Browne focused on replacement personnel selection as the opportunity, Daley used that as a jumping-off point to explore previous supervisors discussion dating to early 2020 about an organizational realignment of the EDA. The County has already taken on the role of Financial Agent of the EDA. Continuing the broached realignment would bring the EDA staff into the Warren County Government Center, functioning more like a County Department. That option was first considered by some supervisors in the wake of the Town of Front Royal’s decision to operationally withdraw from the half-century-plus old joint EDA, in favor of creating its own unilateral Front Royal EDA (FREDA).


In Dec. 2019 file photo, then-Mayor Gene Tewalt at an EDA Board meeting. Tewalt urged Town Council to accept EDA-offered negotiations to determine exactly what the Town’s losses in the EDA financial scandal were – but council wasn’t listening. Will they now? Then EDA Board Chairman Ed Daley is at far left, flanked by Greg Harold, Doug Parsons, Jeff Browne, standing, a partially obscured Gray Blanton, and Jorie Martin. Now Supervisors Chair Cheryl Cullers is seated behind Mayor Tewalt.

That decision was driven by the Town Council’s decision, against the advice of then-Mayor Gene Tewalt, to civilly sue the old EDA for a larger portion of the allegedly embezzled and misdirected EDA assets related to County and Town business dealing handled by the EDA. Rather than costly and divisive litigation, Mayor Tewalt urged council to accept the new EDA leadership’s offer to have staffs simply sit down and follow the money to determine who was owed what. However, a council majority wasn’t listening to its then mayor. Consequently, the Town and EDA are currently engaged in dueling civil litigations.

And while Daley’s presentation began as a logistical exploration of processes of incorporating the EDA into the county governmental apparatus, it took a turn when one supervisor posed a legal question. “I’m going to call the elephant out in the room,” North River Supervisor Delores Oates said in pointing out that the existing EDA was jointly founded by the county and town governments over a half-century ago, and legally remains a Town-County EDA. So, can the County legally bring the EDA into its sole administrative oversight, she wondered.

“If I were sitting where you sit, I would invite the town council to participate in a staffed economic development department that works for the EDA but can also work for us in the County and the Town on economic development projects,” the county administrator replied. And as Daley pointed out, neither EDA currently has a staff, though at least one, the old EDA, has an exceptionally competent and proactive re-tooled board of directors.

“And I think that would be the best tactical advantage for the community, is if we would actually collaborate and not create independent organizations. Because otherwise we’re spending twice the money to do the same job,” Oates said in response to Daley’s suggestion.

Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox wondered how close to day-to-day EDA operations the county supervisors really wanted or needed to be. Below, North River Supervisor Delores Oates called ‘the elephant out in the room’ – the fact that legally the existing, co-founded EDA remains the ‘FR-WC EDA’. So, can the Board incorporate it into the county governmental apparatus were that path chosen?

The first face-to-face discussion of this latter option of reestablishing a jointly functioning Town-County EDA will apparently take place this Thursday, at the first Town-County Liaison Committee meeting since the Town Council decided to cut those quarterly meetings off in the wake of initiating the now dueling Town-EDA/County civil litigations. Daley noted that Liaison Committee opportunity was presented by the inclusion on Thursday’s Liaison agenda of a Town presentation on the status of development of its unilateral Town EDA.

Members of both council and the board of supervisors have recently suggested an altered, more collaborative Town-County path forward from the divisive and litigious one launched by council during the tenure of Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick. So, it will be interesting to see how Thursday’s Liaison Committee discussion develops with a new town manager involved; and how the full council will react to the idea of realigning into a jointly functioning EDA apparatus, possibly including collaboration in selecting the new FR-WC EDA staff were a speedy, positive reaction achieved.

The EDA discussion begins at the 1-hour-16-minute-30-second mark of the linked county video; Oates calls out the “elephant in the room” at the 1-hour-44-minute-45-second mark. The Capital Improvement Project PowerPoint and Q&A takes up the first hour-and-15-minutes of the video. And between the CIP and EDA portions of the work session, Board Chair Cullers gave an update on news of the birth of her newest grandchild Tuesday evening. – Welcome to the world on September 14, 2021, Ella Louise.

About those CIP projects

Prior to that turn toward the EDA and Town-County relations regarding cost-effective cooperation versus costly, counterproductive competition in future economic development initiatives, there were some interesting turns on the CIP front. Those included discussion of downtown Front Royal parking issues and the County’s ability to impact those issue with owned property in the Historic Downtown Business District vicinity. Also, under board scrutiny was the cost and effectiveness of air purification devices under consideration for other County facilities after being installed at the Warren County Courthouse to allow more normal judicial proceedings to be reinitiated during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Discussion of the potential effectiveness against, not only the COVID-19 Coronavirus but other virally spread illnesses was broached in considering the purchase of as many as 60 of the machines at a cost of $2100 per unit.

County Project Manager Jeff Hayes had the floor with a power point review of Capital Improvement Projects for the first hour-and-15-minutes of work session.

See Hayes’ CIP power point on renovations to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office; the Parks & Rec Department Splash Pad Pavilion; Rivermont Volunteer Fire Company 2 renovations; Shenandoah Farms Company 6 renovations; the Morgan’s Ford Boat Landing project; and Juvenile and Domestic Court renovations and related parking issue, including the observation that you “don’t build a court facility over or under a parking deck – BOOM!” (due to domestic terrorist concerns).

On the downtown parking deck front, Ed Daley noted that the Winchester City Council was scoffed at for proposing a downtown parking deck 20 years ago, adding that now the city has four.

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EDA develops transition plan through staffing losses

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The Front Royal/Warren County EDA’s Executive Committee met on September 10, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. to discuss personnel matters arising from the upcoming vacancy of its executive director, and a transition plan for continuity of EDA operations.

The Executive Committee is developing a detailed plan to handle all aspects of the EDA’s operations including business retention and attraction, finance, legal, personnel, and day-to-day office operations. Both the Board and the Executive Director are confident that this plan will ensure a seamless transition and ensure the EDA remains a competitive entity for investment and expansion of businesses in Warren County.

(From a Sept. 10 Press Release by the WC EDA)

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Upcoming Events

Oct
18
Mon
11:00 am Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 18 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Kindergarten and First Grade. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: Ages 5 and 6 Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at Strokes[...]
1:00 pm Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 18 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Grades 2nd and 3rd. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: 7 and 8 years old Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at[...]
Oct
21
Thu
10:00 am Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 21 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie at Strokes of Creativity. Tickets: CLICK HERE Cost: $80 for 6 weeks Dates: Thursdays – Oct 21, Oct 28, Nov 4, Nov 11, Nov 18, Dec 4 Time: 10 am[...]
1:00 pm Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 21 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Grades 4th and 5th. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: 9 and 10 years old Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at[...]
Oct
23
Sat
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 23 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area.  During Fall Farm Days History Weekend, step back in time and see history come to life. Stroll through the Historic Area buildings, interact with our living historians and discover our links to historic[...]
1:00 pm Paint Class for Kids Ages 8 and up @ Strokes of Creativity
Paint Class for Kids Ages 8 and up @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 23 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Paint Class for Kids Ages 8 and up @ Strokes of Creativity
This is a painting class for children 8 years old and up. Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at Strokes of Creativity. Date: Saturday, October 23,[...]
Oct
24
Sun
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 24 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area.  During Fall Farm Days History Weekend, step back in time and see history come to life. Stroll through the Historic Area buildings, interact with our living historians and discover our links to historic[...]
Oct
25
Mon
11:00 am Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 25 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Kindergarten and First Grade. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: Ages 5 and 6 Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at Strokes[...]
1:00 pm Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 25 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Grades 2nd and 3rd. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: 7 and 8 years old Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at[...]
Oct
28
Thu
10:00 am Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 28 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie at Strokes of Creativity. Tickets: CLICK HERE Cost: $80 for 6 weeks Dates: Thursdays – Oct 21, Oct 28, Nov 4, Nov 11, Nov 18, Dec 4 Time: 10 am[...]