Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) Ambassadors for a presentation on the latest news in astronomy. Finish the evening by relaxing and enjoying the night’s beauty with the members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club for a tour of the night sky. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and/or blankets. Feel free to bring your telescope or binoculars for your own exploration.
Entrance gates close one hour after the program start time.
After discussion following comments of ‘private citizen’ Darryl Merchant on Data Center ‘by right’ concerns, council appears to shift course – better late than never
At its regular meeting of Monday evening, June 27, the Front Royal Town Council faced two issues with potential long-term consequences for the town’s future land use and utility infrastructure needs and costs. Those were public hearings on a Short-Term Rental Special Use Permit (SUP) request under the Town’s new ordinance guiding such quasi-commercial uses in Residential-1 Districts; and on an Ordinance Amendment proposal that would allow Data Centers as a By Right use in Industrial-2 Districts.
In the first case, despite significant citizen and neighborhood opposition, countered by significant support, a 5-0 council majority (Gary Gillispie absent) decided to move forward with approval of the request within the new town ordinance guidelines. That approval was for Alexandria-based Bridget Scanlan’s SUP request for a maximum four-person Short-Term Tourist Rental at 108 Virginia Avenue at its three-way intersection with First Street.
However, on the second matter of allowing energy and water-gobbling Data Centers with a generally low job creation outlook as a “by-right” use rather than on a case-by-case Special Use Permitting review basis, council appeared to reverse its previously chosen course of action. After a first speaker in opposition to the “by-right” aspect of the ordinance proposal, followed by nearly unanimous council concurrence with that concern, council voted 5-0 to return the matter for additional review and re-advertisement for a vote on approval of Data Centers as an Industrial-2 District use by Special Use Permitting. We will focus on this second decision here while exploring the Short-Term Tourist Rental debate in a second story on Monday’s meeting.
The primary public hearing speaker was Darryl Merchant, who noted he was appearing as a private town citizen, not in his role as chairman of the town planning commission. But private citizen Merchant’s comments (beginning at the 1:37:15 mark of the LINKED town video) echoed the recommendation of the planning commission, which was to require a Special Use Permit review of any Data Center application for a town industrially zoned location. Merchant began by commending the planning department staff for its background work in setting performance standards for Data Center reviews, adding, “I’m certainly not opposed to Data Centers other than I think it should be a special use and not a by-right use.”
Noting that Data Centers were currently a hot item on the economic development front across the commonwealth, Merchant noted that, unlike many established industrial-zone businesses, data centers were a relatively new and quickly evolving entity. He pointed to the generally huge size of the buildings – “They are massive both in square footage and in height” before moving to the utilities aspect: “Energy consumption is another concern we have. I know I’ve read some public comments from council regarding some of the electric blips (outages) that we’ve currently had; as well as water usage. You know water is a finite resource,” Merchant pointed out of the strain data centers can pose on a host municipality’s public utilities the entire community, industrial, commercial and residential, depend on.
He told council he believed the industry was taking steps to try and reduce that usage in the future, but cautioned that how successful those efforts would be is still an unknown. Merchant also observed that it was somewhat ironic the Town was placing Data Centers in the I-2 District with businesses generally providing a significant employment base for a community, while data centers generally provide a relatively small number of jobs for the local work force.
As to any fears that imposing the additional SUP review criteria might deter major players from considering Front Royal as a possible data center destination, Merchant pointed east. “You know Amazon just recently … submitted an application for a Warrenton site; and Warrenton does use the Special Use provision for approval,” he said in closing.
Having filed to run for a seat on council in November’s Special Election to fill the remaining two years of Scott Lloyd’s vacated term (current appointee Amber Morris filed to run in the three-seat general election), Tom Sayre followed Merchant to the podium for one of his three campaign, we mean public comment, trips to the podium. Sayre acknowledged his agreement with Merchant’s observations on the low employment numbers data centers provide. He estimated an average of 5 to 20 jobs, with 20 being a “high side” estimate, he observed. “So, I suggest you take a hard look at data centers,” Sayre concluded.
The public hearing completed, Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell again chairing a meeting for absent Mayor Chris Holloway, put the matter to council. Amber Morris made an initial motion to “defer the item to a work session”. Cockrell seconded the motion, opening the matter for council discussion. Morris opened that discussion (at the 1:42:55 mark of linked video) noting a 20-year gap in council review of Industrial-zoned properties in town, calling them somewhat “random” in nature at this point. She also suggested not jumping the gun on major zoning decisions with the current Town Comprehensive Plan Review underway.
In turn, Vice-Mayor Cockrell (video 1:44:08), Joseph McFadden (1:45:55), Zach Jackson (1:46:47) agreed with the planning commission and private-citizen Merchant suggested change to requiring Special Use Permit review for data center applications into I-2 zoned properties.
But with council poised to vote on Morris’s original motion to return the matter to council work session discussion, Assistant Town Attorney George Sonnett suggested more precise motion wording to forego the necessity of a second public hearing, with the advertised public hearing having been closed. Morris gave it another try, amending her original motion to defer a vote on the proposed ordinance amendment to the July 25 council meeting following discussion at a July 11 work session. With council again poised for a vote, McFadden, who had seconded Morris’s reworked motion, wondered at the necessity of a month’s delay on a vote.
Noting an apparent consensus on the change to requiring the SUP review for data center applications, why not just go ahead and vote on an amended motion requiring SUP review of data center applications, McFadden asked. Town Manager Steven Hicks replied that the additional time would allow staff additional time for a review of standards, which led Morris to point to the planning staff review and subsequent planning commission recommendations that had already been made. McFadden also worried that “if we kick it down two meetings … politics comes into play …” as to influence on council’s decision-making process.
But after a brief conversation with Assistant Town Attorney Sonnett, Town Manager Hicks informed council that due to the way the proposed ordinance amendment had been advertised as a vote on by-right approval, a newly worded proposal would have to be advertised for another public hearing anyway. With additional questions looming (1:52:20), Hicks elaborated that following council work session discussion, the staff recommendation would be that the ordinance amendment proposal be returned to the planning commission. Planning Director Lauren Kopishki noted that would likely throw the matter into August for council approval of an adjusted ordinance amendment on data centers.
So, Morris went again, withdrawing her earlier amended motion to be replaced by one reading “That council send back Public Hearing item 7-E, an Ordinance Amendment to Town Code Chapter 175 to add Data Centers to make this by Special Use Permit only.” That motion was approved by a 5-0 vote – and here we go again.
Trio of Front Royal women plead guilty to oxycodone distribution ring
A Front Royal woman pleaded guilty Monday to being the “ringleader” of a decade-long oxycodone distribution network, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Candie Marie Calix, 40, worked as an office manager for an unnamed Arlington, VA doctor, according to court records that identify the doctor as “Doctor-1.”
Kendall Sovereign, 56, and Jessica Talbott, 35, both of Front Royal, also pleaded guilty to being co-conspirators in the drug ring.
Between 2012 and 2022, court records state that the doctor prescribed Calix nearly 40,000 oxycodone 30-mg pills and over 9,000 oxycodone 15-mg pills. The doctor also prescribed similar quantities of oxycodone 30-mg and 15-mg pills to Calix’s relatives, including her mother, grandparents, great-grandmother, husband, and brother.
Court records indicate that Calix distributed or directed others to distribute most of the pills prescribed to Calix and her family members by “Doctor-1.”
The U.S. attorney’s office said that Calix “functioned as the gatekeeper” to the doctor and recruited people she knew from the Front Royal area to be “patients” of the doctor and obtain large quantities of oxycodone.
These “patients,” officials say, “typically kicked back the oxycodone 30-mg pills they were prescribed to Calix to redistribute and kept the oxycodone 15-mg pills for their own use.”
“Calix and her co-conspirators used coded language to refer to the pills they distributed, for example, referring to oxycodone 30-mg pills as ‘tickets,’ ‘blueberries,’ or ‘muffins,’” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a media release.
Court documents show that co-conspirators “typically sold oxycodone 30-mg pills at a cost of $25 per pill, and over the course of the conspiracy, generated at least $5,000 per month in profits.”
Calix is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 28 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, though actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties, the release states. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Sovereign and Talbott are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept 21.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine E. Rumbaugh.
Elizabeth “Libby” Andrick Jones (1927 – 2022)
Elizabeth “Libby” Andrick Jones, 95, of Front Royal, Virginia, passed away peacefully on Sunday, June 26, 2022, surrounded by her loving family.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 2 at 1:00 pm at the Front Royal Church of the Brethren with Pastors Bobby and Diann Whetzel officiating. Interment will be private.
Mrs. Jones was born in Boyer, West Virginia, the daughter of the late Charles and Virgie Andrick. She was also preceded in death by her husband, John Paul Jones, and eight brothers and sisters.
After retirement from Avtex Fibers, she enjoyed her flowers, gardening, travel, and browsing antique and thrift shops.
Surviving is a sister, Louise Walters (Donald) of Strasburg; four daughters, Diane Wickham (Norwood), Debbie Lambert (Al), Ruth Hamman (Mike), and Patricia Dodson, all of Front Royal, Virginia; seven grandchildren, Christopher Lambert (Kimberly), Matthew Lambert, Angie Ordonez, and Daniel, Dana, Sarah, and Sam Wickham; eight great-grandchildren; and 18 devoted nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends on Saturday, July 2, one hour prior to the service at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Humane Society of Warren County, 1245 Progress Drive, Front Royal, Virginia 22630, or the American Heart Association, P.O. Box 840692, Dallas, Texas 75284.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Striped Skunk
This infant Striped Skunk was spotted all alone and wandering outside of his den. If mom dies or does not return to the den, babies who are typically too small to leave the den will venture out to find her.
After monitoring the situation for a few days, it became apparent that mom was not returning and the baby came in for care.
Although thin and dehydrated upon admission, this kit was eager to eat on his own once rehydrated. We expect him to do well and be releasable later this year!
If you have unwanted skunks denning near your home, please do not intervene until AFTER baby season is over in the early fall to prevent creating orphans.
Generally, skunks are not aggressive animals and actually make good neighbors! They are most active at night and eat insects, rodents, and carrion (dead animals)—making the environment healthier for everyone.
If a skunk is behaving oddly or appears ill, or if you believe there are babies in need of help, do not try to handle them yourself. Skunks are considered a high-risk rabies vector species and handling or feeding them can result in life-threatening consequences for you and them. Call your local permitted rehabilitator as soon as you believe there is an issue.
Did you know?
Skunks do not have an infinite amount of liquid in their scent glands to spray, so they only use it when they think their lives are in danger.
Skunks will typically stomp their front paws to warn potential predators and they will even raise their tail as a threat at those who ignore this first warning. Finally, if the threat continues, they will spray. This spray causes eye irritation and has an extremely potent smell meant to distract and discourage predators from continuing their threatening advances.
Once they use their full amount, it can take days for skunks to “recharge,” leaving them potentially vulnerable to predators looking to test their luck.
Stay away and don’t get sprayed! Give skunks ample room to move away from you and try not to make quick movements. Sudden movements can make animals nervous and send them into defense mode. Keep pets on a leash when outside in an un-fenced area to help prevent them from being sprayed!
Looking for an easy way to help native wildlife? Become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
This week’s showtimes at Royal Cinemas as of June 30th
Are you looking for the full movie-going experience without having to wait in the long lines that often accompany that experience? Then look no further because Royal Cinemas movie theatre is the answer. Get the whole gang together and enjoy a movie! Reserved seating in all auditoriums.
Here is a list of this week’s showtimes at Royal Cinemas as of Thursday, June 30:
Ticket prices are as follows:
- Adult: $10
- Child (under 12): $7
- Military: $8
- Student (college): $8
- Senior: $8
- Matinees, All Seating: $7
- “Thor: Love and Thunder” premiering Thursday, July 7th, @ 4:15 & 7:00
- “Paws of Fury”
- “DC League of Super Pets”
- “Bullet Train”
- “Easter Sunday”
Broken toes aren’t always a DIY fix
Many of us have experienced it at some point — stubbing a toe so hard that it swells and bruises, and wiggling it is too painful to attempt. It’s probably broken, so we tape it carefully to the neighboring toe, pop some ibuprofen, and soldier on. After all, everyone knows that there’s no point in seeing a doctor for a broken toe.
That’s not exactly true, according to the BBC. While most broken toes really will heal just fine with careful taping or a special rigid shoe, some fractures are more complex and without appropriate treatment, can lead to complications like long-term pain or deformities. Not all broken toes are created equal, either — a fractured big toe is a serious injury and may require a cast to heal properly.
Symptoms of a broken toe include swelling, bruising, inability to bear weight on your foot, and pain that lasts longer than a day or two, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Dominic King, D.O., a sports and medical orthopedist for the Cleveland Clinic, advises against icing potential broken toes and instead recommends elevation and over-the-counter pain relievers. Let your body’s natural healing response take the wheel and see a doctor if the pain doesn’t subside in a day or so.
Some — but not all — broken toes might point in a different direction than your other toes or show a slight twist. Seek medical attention right away if your injured toe points at an odd angle or is positioned differently than the same toe on the other foot, if you see bone poking through the skin or if there’s also a deep cut or wound on the toe (even if you don’t see bone).
With most fractured toes, the pain is largely gone after four weeks, and walking should feel normal again after eight.