On Wednesday, September 5, Warren County Attorney Dan Whitten filed a non-suit motion on the County’s legal request to have golf removed as a required use of the Front Royal Golf Club property it purchased in 2005. A notice of the filing to drop the litigation was mailed out to involved parties the following day.
The stunning development came one day after the Warren County Board of Supervisors adjourned to a Closed Session that lasted over two hours, and included discussion of the golf course litigation.
In a September 6 press release, county officials downplayed legal implications of the non-suit filing and noted it could be re-filed within six months. They acknowledged the input of golf club members at an August 21 public hearing. A contingent of the club’s membership, now estimated at down to about 100, appeared in support of county board reconsideration of its decision to move away from golf as a use of the 62-acre property gifted for the recreational use “including golf” of county citizens in 1938. See Related Story
“Nonsuiting the case at this juncture makes the most sense since it would likely be the spring before the case would be heard,” County Board and Golf Club Advisory Committee Chairman Tony Carter is quoted in the County press release. Carter said the board would use the time “to closely watch the revenue picture over the next several months to see if there is significant community support for keeping the course open.”
Responding to public hearing criticism of the County’s management of the golf course, Carter added, “With drier weather, we pledge to continue to make improvements to the condition of the course to improve the golf experience.”
As Royal Examiner previously reported the property was gifted 80 years ago for the recreational use of citizens and visitors to the county in memory of “Billy” Carson, the son of Agnes and William Carson who died at age 16. According to the club website the golf course was designed by William Carson.
The county government purchased the property in 2005 with the continued stipulation that “the current nine (9) holes for golf located on the 62 Acre Parcel, will be used and maintained only for golf.” That purchase was from the renamed management entity then known as the Front Royal Country Club. The County then altered the name to the Front Royal Golf Club and undertook the operation of the property as a municipal golf course, adding walking trails through the property.
However, as time passed that use has become an issue with some supervisors, the Fork District’s Archie Fox being a leading voice against continued County support of the golf course’s operational funding. As we reported of the public hearing discussion the County has estimated annual revenue shortfalls from $30,000 to as high as $110,000.
Club member Staige Miller Jr. countered that most county-managed recreational activities operate at a loss. And Miller noted that even on the high-end annual deficit estimates, the required revenue to balance the golf club budget equates to one-quarter of one penny of real estate tax revenue.
The County’s filing for a declaratory judgment removing the golf requirement for the property notes that in 1938 there were no other golf courses in the community, but now there are four privately-operated courses. County officials have pointed to higher golf course expenses and a national trend of closures of private courses – an argument at least one club member has countered presents more reason for the County to continue to maintain its municipal course, should the future bring closures of those privately-operated county courses.
We asked County Attorney Whitten if court-appointed guardian ad litem Chip White’s response to the County filing for a declaratory judgment to remove golf as a use of the property had any impact on the decision to non-suit the case.
White, appointed to represent the interests of the “unknown heirs or assignees” of Agnes and William Carson, filed a response challenging the County’s ownership of the property should it fail to live up to the original conditions of the deed of gift of the property. White’s filing states that should the current management entity by whatever name fail to meet the 1938 deed of gift condition of recreational use “including golf” which the County signed off on in 2005, the property would revert to the ownership of the Carson heirs or assignees.
White supports that contention by noting that the 1938 transfer excluded mineral and other rights to the property. He also contends that the property’s controlling entity originally named the Recreational Center of Front Royal, was likely initially controlled by the Carson family.
However, Whitten responded that he had sent White “the title insurance policy for the property which the County acquired by deed dated April 14, 2005, from the Front Royal Country Club (formerly known as Recreational Center of Front Royal), and said deed was recorded in the Clerk’s Office of the Circuit Court of Warren County, Virginia as instrument number 050003897.”
He added that “The County has clear title to the property, and there is not a reverter clause in the deed.”
Royal Examiner was unable to reach White for a response prior to publication of this article. It will be added when available.
State police urge drivers to use caution in rainy weather
With the weather forecasts calling for severe storms across much of Virginia Friday, the Virginia State Police is reminding motorists to be extra cautious if having to drive in potentially dangerous conditions.
- Wipers On = Lights On – Virginia law requires headlights to be on when windshield wipers are active. Headlights also make you more visible to other drivers in heavy rains.
- Drive for Conditions – Slow your speeds for conditions and give yourself extra stopping distance.
- Buckle Up – One of the easiest ways to survive a crash is by simply wearing your seat belt and making certain all adult, teen and juvenile passengers are safely secured.
- Turn Around. Don’t Drown. – Forecasts are calling for heavy rains and possible flash flooding. Motorists should never attempt to drive through high water, as the depth and speed of the water can be deceiving and dangerous.
- Be #WeatherReady – Safety tips available here.
- Check 511 for Road Conditions – 511virginia.org
Jason Poe interviews with Royal Examiner for the 2019 Warren County Sheriff’s race
Jason Poe, a Winchester City Police officer who is seeking the Republican endorsement as a candidate for the Warren County Sheriff’s race this year, sat down with Royal Examiner Editor Norma Jean Shaw earlier this week.
He addressed several issues, including what he says is a lack of transparency with the current administration. He said recent headlines involving a civil suit filed by the Front Royal-Warren County EDA that named his father, Donnie Poe, had left him and his family feeling bullied by social media.
Watch the interview:
Poe was the second candidate to announce a bid for the sheriff’s seat. Mark Butler, a Warren County resident and former football coach, announced his candidacy last summer. The independent has nearly 30 years of experience, and currently commutes to his job as a Herndon police officer. Watch Butler’s campaign announcement.
A third candidate, independent, Mickey Licklider, announced his campaign late last summer; he has not responded to Royal Examiner’s request for a sit-down interview.
Both Butler and Poe have agreed to participate in debates later this year.
W&OD Trail detours for construction of a new trail bridge over Route 29
FAIRFAX, Va. – Detours begin Friday, April 19, 2019, on the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail for construction of a new trail bridge over Route 29 (Lee Highway) near the Arlington-Falls Church line. Additionally, the Custis Trail will be detoured beginning in May where it passes under I-66 near Bon Air Park in Arlington due to I-66 widening construction above the trail. Both detours are expected to last until fall 2020.
Washington & Old Dominion Trail Bridge Detour at Lee Highway in Arlington (April 19, 2019, to Fall 2020)
On April 19, 2019, the W&OD Trail will close between Little Falls Street and Lee Highway (near mile marker 5.5) and for a short portion on the east side of Lee Highway.
• Pedestrians will be detoured to the north on Little Falls Street, then turn right on Fairfax Drive to reach the signalized crosswalk for Lee Highway. Sidewalk is available for this entire detour.
• Cyclists will be detoured to the south on Little Falls Street, turn left on West Jefferson Street to reach Lee Highway, then turn left on Lee Highway to the signalized crosswalk. Most of Jefferson Street does not have sidewalk.
• On the east side of Lee Highway, trail users will be shifted to nearby Fairfax Drive for about 200 feet. This portion of Fairfax Drive will be closed to vehicle traffic.
A new bridge is being built for the W&OD Trail over Route 29. This bridge will provide trail users a safer crossing at this busy intersection. Upwards of 2,000 people use the trail in this area near mile marker 5.5 on peak days. The bridge is expected to open in fall 2020.
Custis Trail I-66 Underpass Detour Near Bon Air Park
(May 6, 2019 to Fall 2020)
On May 6, 2019, weather permitting, the Custis Trail will close where it passes under I-66 near Bon Air Park in Arlington.
• Trail users will be detoured to cross over I-66 using an existing pedestrian bridge about 750 feet east of the underpass. The bridge can also be accessed from N. Fairfax Drive near Kensington Street.
• The detour will be marked and uses existing paved trails.
An additional lane is being added to I-66 East between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive / Glebe Road (Exit 71). Extensive work will occur on the bridge that runs above the trail, which requires the underpass to be closed for safety. As part of the construction, the Custis Trail alignment will be shifted slightly south, improving visibility and safety for trail users. Work is expected to be complete by fall 2020.
W&OD Trail Bridge construction and I-66 Eastbound Widening are components of the Transform 66 Inside the Beltway Eastbound Widening Project. The I-66 Eastbound Widening Project will add a travel lane along four miles of eastbound I-66 and install approximately 12,000 linear feet of new and replacement noise barriers. The project also includes constructing a new direct access ramp from eastbound I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station at the Route 7 interchange. Learn more about the project at inside.transform66.org.
The additional eastbound lane is scheduled to open to traffic in fall 2020, and the overall project is expected to be complete in fall 2021.
Skyline High School Latin students earn top awards
Kitty Dean, Latin Teacher at Skyline High School as announced that four students have won awards from the National Latin Exam Committee. These Skyline H.S. students “were joined by over 139,000 other Latin students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as 20 foreign countries including Australia, Belize, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.”
Congratulations to the following Skyline High School students for their outstanding achievement on the 2019 National Latin Exam:
- Latin 5 – Kelsie Keene – Cum Laude Certificate
- Latin 4 – Nancy Lay – Silver Medal (Maxima Cum Laude)
- Latin 4 – Thomas Stelzl – Cum Laude Certificate
- Latin 1 – Dylan Kuzmick – Magna Cum Laude Certificate
The National Latin Exam, sponsored by the American Classical League and the National Junior Classical League, is a 40-question, multiple-choice test with a time limit of 45 minutes, offered to students on seven levels: Introduction to Latin, Latin I, Latin II, Latin III, Latin III/IV Prose, Latin III/IV Poetry, and Latin V/VI+. These exams are not based on any specific textbook series.
On the Introduction to Latin, Latin I, Latin II, Latin III, Latin III/IV Prose, and Latin III/IV Poetry exams, there are questions on grammar, comprehension, mythology, derivatives, literature, Roman life, history, geography, oral Latin, and Latin in use in the modern world. The Latin V/VI+ exam contains two Latin passages (one prose and one poetry) as the basis for questions on grammar, comprehension, historical background, classical literature, and literary devices.
Students are expected to take the exam named for the level of Latin in which they are enrolled. The Introduction to Latin exam is designed for first-year Latin students who are enrolled in a two-year Latin I program and who cover approximately half the Latin I syllabus. The Latin V/VI+ exam is designed for Latin students in the fifth-year of study and higher, including advanced level classes in college. Students are allowed to take only ONE exam annually, and, with the exception of the V/VI+ exam, they should not take the same level exam for more than one year.
The philosophy of the National Latin Exam is predicated on providing every Latin student the opportunity to experience a sense of personal accomplishment and success in his or her study of the Latin language and culture. This opportunity exists for all students since, in the National Latin Exam, they are not competing with their fellow students on a comparative basis, but are evaluated solely on their own performance on the exam. The basic purposes of the NLE are to promote the study of Latin and to encourage the individual student.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals has voted to place the National Latin Exam on the Advisory List of National Contests and Activities. This is distributed to all secondary schools in the United States each September.
A.S. Rhodes Elementary School to get renovated
At the Warren County School Board meeting on April 15, 2019 the first thing on the agenda was the renovation of the A.S. Rhodes Elementary School. Melody Sheppard, assistant superintendent for Warren County school system started the meeting with the A.S. Rhodes Elementary School renovation plan.
Superintendent Greg Drescher said they would share the plan with the whole school board before moving forward.
The Royal Examiner’s camera was there:
EDA Investigation: FRPD’s initial interview of Jennifer McDonald, Part 2
In this second segment of the initial interview on June 15, 2017 with Front Royal Police Department Investigators Landin Waller and Crystal Cline, McDonald pushes forward a theory targeting this reporter as a player in the EDA office break-in revolving around inquiries into and source information acquired that ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran was the “secret investor” in the planned Skyline Regional Justice Academy.
McDonald referenced a time I worked at local radio station WFTR (WZRV The RIver 95.3 FM) and claims I accessed public files. However I never actually was in the EDA offices suite while a radio station employee. After being fired from the radio station, perhaps coincidentally at the very time I was seeking information from Congressman Robert Goodlatte and his staff about the congressman’s involvement with and knowledge of ITFederal and its owner, McDonald invited me to come to her office “to talk”, presumably to glean information about what I had learned about Tran and his company.
The following is a transcript of the official incident report for the alleged break-in, reported on May 18, 2017:
Front Royal Police Department Investigation Narrative: Officer Report for Incident 17050871
Date, Time, Reporting Officer: 05/18/17, 14:00, Detective Landin J. Waller Description of the Incident:
On 05/18/17 I, Detective Landin J. Waller, was contacted by Captain Ryman in reference to an incident at the .Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) located at 400 Kendrick Lane. Myself and Detective King responded to the scene where we were met by Captain Ryman and Captain Nicewarner. Detective King and I were briefed about the scene by Captain Ryman.
We were advised four (4) 4″ by 6″ personal photographs and a large cut out photograph of Jennifer McDonald were taken from McDonald’ s office and found in the conference room. Three ( 3) of ‘the 4″ by 6″ photographs had McDonald in the picture with her face scratched out with a sharp object. The fourth 4″ by 6″ photograph was a picture of McDonald1 s niece and her toddler aged son with the word “NIGGAR” written in black marker across the face of the child. The large cut out photograph had a black plastic handle steak knife plunged through the forehead of the photo and it was stuck to the head rest of a brown leather office chair where McDonald admittedly normally sits.
There were no signs of forced entry to the buildings windows, and doors. As I noted there was undisturbed dust on the window ledges and on the blinds at every window. The window to McDonald’s office was raised up about two inches and not secured; However there was cobwebs and undisturbed dust on the blinds and window ledge. The two doors of access to the building and office did not have pry marks or signs of tampering.
The scene was photographed and processed by Detective King. Detective King took overall, midrange, close-up, and close-up with scale photographs. All photographs will be attached to this report in the images file. There were 6 items of evidence collected and packaged from this scene. Item #1: (4″ by 6″ photograph of niece and son), Item #2: 4″ by 6″ photograph of McDonald with Dolphin), Item #3: (4″ by 6″ photograph of McDonald with Niece), Item #4: (4″ by 6″ photograph of McDonald and family) , Item #5: (cutout picture of McDonald) , Item #6: (black plastic handle steak knife) . Detective King dusted the conference ‘ table and drawer for latent prints but was not successful.
I interviewed the two employees that were at the office, Jennifer McDonald and Missy Henry. These interviews were audio recorded and will be added to the case file.
From the interview with McDonald, I was informed that she was the Director of the EDA inhere she has been employed since 1999, She advised there are two other employees, Missy Henry and Maria Jones, that work out of this office. McDonald advised me she left the office last evening (05/17/18) at 17:00 or 17:30. She said she went to a Rotary meeting at 19;30. McDonald said left from the Rotary meeting and went directly home and the next morning she arrived to work at about 07:30. McDonald said she went to her office and she and Missy were talking when she noticed some pictures were missing from her office but she was not sure which ones. She said a while later she was notified by Missy of the scene in the conference room – McDonald did say that last Thursday morning she noticed a large knife (from the kitchen area of the EDA) was in her chair in the conference room on 05/11/17, but did not notify the police but thought it was odd.
I asked McDonald if she could think of anyone that might be mad enough to do something like this, she said “yes”. She informed me that there is a group of people who have made derogatory statements about the Work-Force Housing Project in the Royal Examiner. McDonald went on to explain there was a piece of land that was to be gifted to the town for this project; However, the EDA missed the deadline for the land to be gifted and now the land must be purchased. She said the piece of land in question was gifted by her family members (Aunt & Uncle). She stated the Royal Examiner has posted articles about this land deal in which many persons have commented negatively about her and the EDA. She listed Councilwoman Bebhinn Egger, Mike Graham, Stan Brooks, Shea Parker, Tom Conkey, Roger Bianchini, and Norma Jean Shaw as persons who she felt were angry with her.
McDonald informed me that herself, Missy, and Maria Jones are the only ones with keys to the outside of the building and to the office door. She did say there was a spare key for each door in a real estate type lock box that was located on the iron railing of the stoop. She advised that Maria Crigler, The Administrative Assistant of Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, (the neighboring business) also has the code to the lock box because they have a spare key in the lock box. McDonald informed me the keys are kept in the lock box incase someone forgets their key to the office and needs to gain entry to the office. I was then informed that all 9 employees at Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission have the code to the lock box.
I also interviewed Missy Henry in the conference room. Henry stated she has been employed at the EDA as an Administrative Assistant since 2012. She advised that she left the office on 05/17/17 at 17:05 and did not return to the office around 0800 on 05/18/17. Henry advised me she was the first to notice the conference room scene. Henry also advised me that she had just changed the code to the lock box this past Monday to a 3 digit code instead of a 4 digit code. She advised that no one has been notified of the change except herself, Jennifer and Maria.
I spoke to all the employees at Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission and determined that the last employee to go leave the building was Brandon Davis. X was advised that Davis1 wife went into labor last night and he stopped by the office to grab some items from his desk before going to the hospital. I have yet to speak with him, but all the other employees did not notice anything out of the ordinary on 05/17/17.
Later on that day, I spoke with employee Marla Taylor Jones by phone. Marla advised she is the current Director of Marketing with the EDA and has been since 2009. She said she arrived to work at 08:10 on 05/17/17 and left at 17:00. She did say she noticed a man who was inside the gate of the property and he was holding a phone or a video recorder and it appeared he was recording. She described the male as a white male with a beard wearing blue plaid shirt, shorts, and a ball cap. ‘ She said he went outside to ask him if he needed assistance but he walked through the breezeway and towards Ameri-Sist which is a business on the east end of the building. Jones said she had Henry call Ameri-Sist to see if the man came to their business, but was informed that no one had stopped in. Jones also said that when she was leaving at 17:00 she noticed an old red Ford Explorer or Blazer with a white male inside and the engine was running. She said he was on the road behind the building and she asked him if he needed help. She said he told her he had just made a delivery and was routing his next delivery. She said she thought this was a bit unusual.
On 05/18/17 after clearing the initial asked McDonald if I might have the spare I wanted to set up surveillance cameras, keys. On 05/18/17 at 17:30 hours Myself, Sergeant Cline set up surveillance video scene, I responded back to* the EDA and keys to the building and office because McDonald agreed and gave me the spare Detective King, Detective Fogle and inside the office.
Watch Part 2 of Jennifer McDonald initial interview with Front Royal Police Department that occurred on June 15, 2017: