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Increased county building permit standards request sent to planners

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Doug Stanley addresses dynamics of a more stringent building permit ordinance, as Ralph Rinaldi and David Beahm listen in the back row. Photos/Roger Bianchini

Following work session discussion the morning of Wednesday, November 7, the Warren County Board of Supervisors reached a consensus to forward a request for more stringent building permit criteria to the county planning commission.

Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms (POSF) Board Chairman and Shenandoah District Planning Commissioner Ralph Rinaldi was present Tuesday to explain the request for a more comprehensive county code on building permits generated out of the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District. Rinaldi explained that the request sent to the county administrator related primarily to drainage issues specific to the sprawling and mountainous Farms Sanitary District.

“I didn’t mean to open a can of worms. My and our board’s original intent was to reduce our maintenance costs on roads” Rinaldi told the supervisors and county staff of the impetus toward a countywide ordinance change. Rinaldi noted that a lack of building permit standards regarding drainage and erosion controls are wreaking havoc on the Farms road and low-lying adjacent properties.

A letter dated October 13 to County Administrator Doug Stanley, signed by Rinaldi as POSF chairman and POSF Road Chairman Joe Longo outlined their issues.

“There are often no erosion controls in place, after storm events mud from the building sites wash out on to the road or adjacent properties …drainage is diverted to adjacent properties, homes are constructed on existing drainage ways, wells are installed in ravines and in several occasions on the public ROW,” Rinaldi and Longo wrote.

During a closed session after Wednesday’s board meeting and prior to the work session, Rinaldi elaborated to this reporter on some of the issues. He observed that a county building permit had been approved for a well-septic in an essentially inaccessible to-the-necessary-equipment ravine because no elevations had been included in the submitted site plan.

During the work session Rinaldi made it clear he supported the right of property owners to develop lots. The POSF letter explained a contributing factor to the drainage issues tied to new construction as “the fact that most of the better lots are gone. They were built on years ago. Most of the remaining lots are un-desirable by either being too steep, low lying, rocky, or in natural drainage areas, etc.”

“I am a firm believer in property rights – but neighbors also have property rights,” Rinaldi told county officials Wednesday morning.
One contributing factor to issues with current construction on steeper lots remaining for development in the Farms, the POSF letter observed was payment of a “new construction fee” by developers.

“Most builders seem to think after paying this fee it entitles them to do basically what they need or want to in order to get their new home built. Often when we confront a builder about an issue, the first thing out of their mouth is, ‘Well, I paid my new construction fee.’ These individuals do not think they are accountable for their actions since they paid the fee,” the POSF letter states.

It was noted in the work session that increased standards and costs could run afoul of local builders regarding additional costs. Currently, permitting costs for a 1500 square-foot building were estimated between $1400 and $1750. Adding topographical, health department, grading, erosion, among other permit approval criteria could add from $2,000 to $3,000 to existing costs, county Zoning Officer Joe Petty estimated.

“Not to make light of the additional $2,000 to $3,000 cost – but homeowners could realize $20,000 to $30,000 in savings down the road,” Deputy County Administrator and Farms Sanitary District Manager Bob Childress observed of mandating improved drainage and erosion standards upon issuance of building permits.

In the end it was forecast that additional costs would simply be passed on to home buyers by developers.

The county supervisors and staff agreed to pass the matter to the planning commission to review all aspects and recommend wording attached to proposed new building permit ordinance.

“Should we call it the Ralph Rinaldi Ordinance,” Board Chair Tony Carter asked, drawing laughter, perhaps somewhat nervously from Rinaldi.

Despite Rinaldi’s concern the POSF request might have a harder road to approval as a countywide ordinance as it seems would be required for implementation, County Administrator Stanley observed that one non-localized benefit was that it would “make sure all issues are addressed before a home is built.”

While County Planning Director Taryn Logan observed the planning commission could begin consideration of the matter by its next meeting in three weeks, with all the variables at play it was estimated the matter would not likely come back to the supervisors for consideration before the spring of 2019. Logan suggested that the planning commission recommendations be brought back to the board prior to advertisement for the planning department public hearing to iron out any disagreement over specifics that the supervisors might have.

County Board Chair Carter also suggested Building Inspector David Beahm reach out to the Warren County Building Committee for input during the planning commission process. Beahm observed that the private-sector builders group does not meet regularly during the building off season, with their next scheduled meeting in January or February.

During the supervisors’ regular meeting of Nov. 7, family members accept recognition of 30 years of service of William ‘Billy’ Biggs to the EDA and economic development in the community. Accepting for their absent brother, uncle or brother-in-law from the county administrator’s left are: Mary Ann Biggs (brother Joe’s wife), nephew William Biggs, and brothers Pat and Joe. Biggs recently resigned the board due to lingering health issues.

Local Government

Council aligns with Planning Commission: No exemption from off-street parking

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The Virginia Beer Museum at 16 Chester Street, may have to nix expansion of its backyard Beer Garden following a Council vote denying an exemption for off-street parking for museums and art galleries. / Royal Examiner File Photo

FRONT ROYAL – A motion to amend Front Royal Town Code 175-127.3 to exempt museums and art galleries from off-street parking requirements failed Monday evening (Jan. 14, 2019) at its second and final reading, as the Front Royal Town Council voted down the measure 4-2.

Councilman Jacob Meza and recently-elected LeTasha Thompson voted in favor of the code change to allow the exemption, while Councilmen Sealock, Tewalt, Gillispie and Holloway voted against the measure.  Prior to the vote Sealock addressed his concerns about a lack of parking data and also reminded the panel that they had originally agreed to affirm the Planning Comission’s  decision.

Virginia Beer Museum owner David Downes had previously submitted a request to receive an off-street parking exemption to expand the entity’s beer garden. The parking spots he hoped to eliminate are behind 14 and 16 Chester Street, where Downes’ law office and the museum are located.

He previously told Royal Examiner that his request was an attempt to be treated the same as the businesses on Main, Jackson and Chester streets, which are exempt from off-street parking requirements.

Last September, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended that Downe’s request be denied in favor of a town-wide parking study after a public hearing in which 14 citizens spoke in favor of the exemption, with three speaking against it.

In other business, the Town Council’s Monday:

  • Appointed William C. Gordon to the Planning Commission, term expiring August 30, 2020.
  • Appointed Eugene Tewalt and Jacob Meza to the Audit & Finance Committee, term expiring Dec. 31, 2019.
  • Appointed William Sealock as Vice-Mayor. He will serve for two years, until the end of his term.
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Local Government

Town Summit – Part 6, Town Director of Finance B.J. Wilson gives us an ‘Financial Overview’.

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Town Director of Finance B.J. Wilson. Photo and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

In this 6th and final presentation of the Town Council Summit, Town Director of Finance B.J. Wilson gives us an ‘Financial Overview’.

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Local Government

Town Council Summit – Part 5, Town Attorney Doug Napier addresses the EDA

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Photo and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner

In late 1967, Town Council and the Warren County Board of Supervisors, by reciprocal ordinances, jointly formed the “Industrial Development Authority of the Town of Front Royal and the County of Warren, Virginia”, pursuant to State statutes. This local Industrial Development Authority (“IDA”) currently is known as the Economic Development Authority, or “EDA”. This session, Town Attorney discusses the EDA and its relationship with the County and the Town.

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Local Government

Town Council Summit – Part 4, Town Attorney Doug Napier addresses ‘Roberts Rules of Order’

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Mayor Hollis Tharpe asks Town Attorney Doug Napier about Roberts Rules of Order. Photo and Video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

In this fourth presentation of the Town Council Summit,  Town Attorney Doug Napier addresses ‘Roberts Rules of Order’:

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Local Government

Town Council Summit – Part 3, Town Attorney Doug Napier addresses ‘Conflict of Interest’

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Photo and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner

In this third presentation of the Town Council Summit,  Town Attorney Doug Napier addresses issues with Conflicts of Interest:

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Local Government

BOS Reports from County Administrator; County Attorney; WCPS; VDOT

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At the Board of Supervisors meeting on January 8, 2019, the monthly reports from the County Administrator Doug Stanley, County Attorney Dan Whitten gave their reports:


Also Warren County Public Schools – Greg Drescher


And report from Ed Carter, VDOT

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