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Judge hears arguments on Downes vs. Front Royal parking/zoning case dismissal motion

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A decision on the Town of Front Royal’s Demurrer motion for dismissal of David Downes civil action seeking to overturn the Town Council’s decision not to reverse existing zoning requirements that he maintain 9 to 15 on-site parking spaces at his two Chester Street properties could be forthcoming within two weeks. Substitute Judge Craig D. Johnston of Prince William County cited that “hoped for” timeline after taking 2-1/2 hours of arguments under advisement shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, February 23.

Local defense attorney and Virginia Beer Museum proprietor Downes represented himself in the case heard in Warren County Circuit Court. The Town of Front Royal was represented by Heather K. Bardot of the Fairfax-based law firm of Bancroft McGavin Horvath & Judkins, PC. The Town’s legal representation is covered by insurance through the Virginia Risk Sharing Association (VRSA), a subset of the Virginia Municipal League (VML).

One interested observer in Circuit Courtroom “A” was Town Attorney Doug Napier, who appeared to be taking more notes than the two reporters present. What he and those reporters were scribbling occasionally frantically about was the fundamental issue of whether Plaintiff Downes civil filing contains adequate grounds to proceed to trial.

Bardot and the Town contend that no, it doesn’t, as reflected in their Demurrer filing of January 7. Downes countered in support of his February 8 reply to the Town motion for dismissal, that he has made sufficient cause to being singled out as what he termed “a party of one” treated in an “arbitrary and unreasonably” different manner than other business entities, property owners and museums in Front Royal’s downtown business district, save one. And that one, a residential rental building across Chester Street, is only mandated to keep three off-street parking spaces, Downes observed.


Disputed properties at 14 and 16 Chester Street from front, law office at left, Va. Beer Museum to right. Below, the disputed 9-space parking area at rear of the properties now partially used for outdoor museum seating and events, weather permitting. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

The dispute centers around Downes’ law office at 14 Chester and adjacent Virginia Beer Museum at 16 Chester Street. Existing Town Zoning requires that he maintain a total of 15 off-street parking spaces, nine in the rear of the two buildings and six abutting the Town’s Peyton Street parking lot on the north side of the Beer Museum. Primarily at issue are the nine spaces in the rear of the two buildings. Downes noted that employee-wise, he doesn’t need more than one or two parking spaces for either business.

Downes contends that, not only has the Town singled him out for a standard different for other businesses in the downtown district, but also in the case of the Virginia Beer Museum, differently than other museums and art galleries in the area. His rezoning request would allow him to revamp the rear portion of his property into an expanded Biergarten and events area for his museum dedicated to promoting Virginia-brewed beers and beer’s role in the history of the American nation.

On the Town’s behalf, Bardot countered that Downes had inherited the zoning’s parking requirements, particularly as to the 16 Chester Street property, dating back to 1992. Downes noted he has had his law office at 14 Chester since 1999. Bardot also pointed to business growth projections for Front Royal’s Downtown Business District, including the redevelopment of the Afton Inn, that will require additional downtown parking that will negate Peyton Street parking availability statistics overlapping Downes’ rezoning request initiated in 2017 and finally denied by the town council in January 2019.

Downes has pointed to a parking study the Town initiated the year prior to his rezoning request that indicated 22 of the available 42 spaces in the Peyton Lot area as available on average. Countering that, Bardot noted that once Downes fenced off the rear area of his property that availability had changed to 27 of the 42 spaces being taken, an increase of 16% occupancy she noted.

Above, Chester St. entrance to the Town’s Peyton St. parking lot adjacent to Va. Beer Museum around noon on a weekday. Below, the Beer Museum’s 6 north-side parking spaces abutting the Peyton St. lot. Downes has said he is willing to maintain those spaces, which he believes coupled with available on-street and public parking availability is more than enough to accommodate his two properties.

Bardot also cited what she called “a very low standard of reasonableness” by which a court should judge legislative decisions because the judicial branch of government is not supposed to interfere unduly with the legislative branch’s function. The dueling attorneys were also at odds over whether a Constitutional aspect of the case related to the discriminatory nature Downes claims is being applied to him in a “piecemeal” manner is still at issue in the case. The case was originally filed in federal court, but the two parties agreed for it to be moved to state court jurisdiction.

“Of course it’s piecemeal – that’s why I’m here,” Downes told the court. He said that any of the three zoning options he had offered the Town would have addressed and solved that discriminatory nature of the existing zoning he is claiming. “I have to maintain these spaces – the burden shouldn’t be on me – it must be uniform (by zoning code) he asserted. Downes noted a formula at the root of the existing zoning by which he is supposed to have a parking space for every 300 square feet of building space, a condition not applied to other businesses or museums in the downtown area.

Royal Examiner file photo of Downes addressing Front Royal Town Council last year on the local opioid crisis, where they found common ground. – But about that parking situation …

Of his claim the Town is violating Constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law in its demand of the parking space requirements directed at his properties, he concluded, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree” that it was still in play at the state court level. In that regard, Downes cited Virginia’s Dillon Rule which prevents municipal governments from exceeding authorities not granted at the State level. – “Under the Dillon Rule the Town can’t do unconstitutional things,” he argued.

Bardot countered that rather than the “arbitrary and capricious” standard being violated by the Town, Downes simply disagreed with a council decision that could be viewed as reasonable in light of evidence of coming downtown parking needs.

Both attorneys cited case law in support of their opposing contentions on the level of proof necessary and present in the Downes litigation. “I’m living with Williams for better or worse,” Downes told the judge of one of his case law references.

“The Town has no obligation to show reasonableness until Mr. Downes shows unreasonableness,” Bardot told the court, adding that Downes’ amended complaint failed to meet that standard as illustrated by the public hearing debate and planning commission recommendation of denial.

However, Downes argued that much of the opposition to his request from nearby business or property owners upon which either the planning commission or town council decisions were based were not relevant to the zoning amendment at issue. Rather, he asserted much of the negative public comment amounted to specific dislikes of either a fence he installed around his back area to address security concerns or the fact the museum served beer, neither being relevant to the zoning and resultant parking requirements at issue in his litigation against the Town.

The attorneys also debated the relevance of meeting summaries versus transcripts and public comments for or against the rezoning request beginning at the planning commission public hearing level. As noted above, Bardot pointed to public opposition to Downes’ rezoning amendment proposal and the planning commission’s unanimous recommendation of denial to further the defense contention the town council decision to deny was a matter of reasonable debate, rather than an arbitrary or capricious decision aimed a lone property owner’s way.

“This goes back to the first year of law school, but don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees,” Downes countered of peripheral issues cited by opponents of his zoning amendment request referenced in the defense motion. Bardot suggested that the plaintiff was mixing apples and oranges in arguing against the defendant’s Demurrer request for dismissal of his case based on a fundamental standard of evidence required to proceed to trial.

Judge Johnston observed that “There are lots of apples in this case – how they relate to the oranges in the defense” was what was at issue for him to determine.

And within the next couple of weeks the plaintiff and defendant will know exactly how the judge juggled those apples and oranges in coming to a decision on the Town’s motion for dismissal of Downes’ case against it.

The Warren County Courthouse from where a decision on the Town motion to dismiss Downes’ litigation will be forthcoming. Below, another perspective on area at rear of Downes properties.

See the Town Demurrer filing and the Defense and Plaintiff motions in support and opposition to it at these links:

  1. Demurrer
  2. Defendant’s Memorandum for Demurrer
  3. Memo in Opposition to Demurrer – Parking
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Local Government

Warren County: Notice of Real Estate taxes due

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Warren County Real Estate tax bills for the first half of the year 2022 have been mailed. If you do not receive a bill for Real Estate, Sanitary District for Blue Mountain, Cedarville Heights, High Knob, Lake Front Royal, Linden Heights, Osprey Lane, Riverside, Shangri-La, Shannon Woods, Shenandoah Farms, Shenandoah Shores, Skyland Estates, South River, or Wildcat Drive, please contact the Treasurer’s Office at 540-635-2215.

Failure to receive a bill does not relieve the taxpayer of the penalty for late payment. Tax bills are due on June 5th, 2022. When the due date falls on the weekend, bills will be due the following business day. Penalty will be added June 7th, 2022, if not paid or postmarked on or before June 6th, 2022.

Treasurer’s Office hours are 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

Jamie L. Spiker
Treasurer

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Town seeks citizen input on Comp Plan revisions on future developmental vision inside town limits

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On Tuesday, May 17, Front Royal Town Manager Steven Hicks issued a brief statement alerting town citizens to opportunities to give town staff, and in turn its elected officials who will give final approval to it, their perspective on revisions to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. Below is Hicks release detailing those opportunities this coming Friday and Saturday.

The first floor of Town Hall will be open for citizen input on a vision for the town’s future on Saturday, from 10 AM to noon and 2 PM to 4 PM. On Friday the location will be the County Public Safety Building (Sheriff and F&R Offices) across from Skyline HS, from noon to 2 PM.

The Town will be hosting Public Input on the rewrite of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan on Friday the 20th, and Saturday the 21st. The existing Comprehensive Plan controls development and the Vision of the Town is 25 years old; therefore, your input is greatly needed to manage development and to create a sustainable community.

Here are the details on the information meetings:


  • Friday, May 20thmeeting is from 12:00 PM-2:00 PM at the Warren County Public Safety Building (Sheriff’s and Fire & Rescue offices across from Skyline High School) located on Skyline Vista Drive
  • Saturday, May 21stmeetings will be at the Town Hall 1st floor lobby on Main Street from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM and 2:00 PM-4:00 PM.
  • Please visit https://publicinput.com/Portal/Q6282 for additional information regarding the Comprehensive Plan.

Additional questions, please contact Lauren Kopishke, Town’s Planning Director at lkopishke@frontroyalva.com

Don’t forget that Saturday is also the Wine & Craft Festival downtown: frontroyalchamber.com/wine-craft-festival

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County Planning Commission considers more tourist rentals, poultry processing, and retreat

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At its regular meeting on May 11th, the Warren County Planning Commission faced a small firestorm of opposition from property owners near a proposed Short-Term Tourist Rental at 801 Esteppe Road in the Fork District. The property is zoned agricultural. The applicant, Vanessa Portillo, gave an emotional appeal to the commission in support of her request to give the property a second chance, despite hasty organizing of opposition by neighbors. She and her husband bought the property needing repairs and upgrades, according to her application, and were determined to save it rather than tearing it down.

Ten citizens spoke at the public hearing, and all were opposed to the permit. The complaint was a familiar one that a Short-Term Tourist Rental would bring strangers and dangers to a sleepy and close-knit neighborhood. Vice-Chairman Hugh Henry empathized with the neighbors but again noted that with all the short-term tourist rentals already in Warren County, there have been zero complaints or issues with law enforcement. That record is a clear indication that fears are most often overblown. Further, Mr. Henry continued, a short-term renter is just that – short-term. The applicant could just rent the property to someone for longer than 30 days, and as a long-term rental, there would be no permit or permission needed.

Chairman Robert Meyers pointed out that Short-term Tourist rentals are considered by the Virginia Legislature as residential uses, rather than commercial intrusions into residential neighborhoods. Vice-Chairman Henry also cited statistics that show traffic to a short-term rental property is, in fact, less than that for a full-time occupied dwelling.

After some discussion of property rights and the concerns of residents, the commission unanimously voted to recommend approval of the application, which now goes to the county Board of Supervisors. As always, the Supervisors also solicit public input, so another opportunity to express an opinion is available for residents who wish to be heard.


Conditional Use Permit applicant Vanessa Portillo describes her intentions for her Short-Term Rental property on Esteppe Road. After hearing opposition from neighboring residents and discussing the merits of the application, the Commission ultimately voted to recommend approval for the permit.

In a task left unfinished from the previous meeting, consideration of a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for private use camping, the Commission heard from Planning Staff that the applicant, Patricia A. Brown, had agreed to two additional conditions for approval of the permit based on input from neighbors at the public hearing. The site is on Misty Meadow Lane in the Massanutten View subdivision. The final permit language will prohibit the use of major recreational vehicles on the site and will limit its use to no more than four organized non-commercial camping events. Property boundaries must be clearly marked throughout the duration of these non-commercial events. The commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the amended request to the Board of Supervisors.

On a request by Justin and Maureen Sager, the Commission voted to recommend approval of a zoning ordinance change to define and regulate an exempt poultry abattoir, defined as a structure where poultry is slaughtered, processed, packed, and labeled for distribution. The number of slaughtered fowl will not exceed 1,000 per calendar year. Under the revised ordinance, this use would be allowed by right. There were no speakers at the public hearing, and Vice Chairman Henry asked if this ordinance change would apply to the whole county. Planning Director Wendling indicated it would apply to all Agriculturally zoned areas, subject to the supplementary regulations. The commission then voted unanimously to recommend the amended ordinance for approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Phong Nguyen is applying for a Conditional Use Permit for a short-term tourist rental for his property at 571 Wilderness Rd in Linden. The property is zoned Residential and is in the Skyland Estates subdivision in the Happy Creek District. Mr. Nguyen plans to use the property as a second residence part of the time and rent it out seasonally. There were no comments from other residents, and the Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the request.

Short-Term tourist rental permit applicant Phong Nguyen addresses the Planning Commission in support of his application. The commission approved the request.

A trio of requests from Emilia Cirker and Mark Saunders would grant a CUP for a Short-Term Tourist rental on their property at 5685 Gooney Manor Loop; amend the zoning ordinance to define and regulate retreat centers; and grant a Conditional Use Permit for a retreat center at that property. The brother and sister partners intend to offer wellness retreats, workshops, classes, and indoor and outdoor activities. Part of the time, the property will also serve Short-Term Tourist rentals. The public hearing yielded no speakers, so the commissioners asked if a bridge on the property would be sufficient to allow service vehicles access. The applicants indicated that they would initially restrict access to only neighboring properties that utilize the primitive bridge and ultimately plan to repair and upgrade it. It is currently in need of repair and is unrated for the weight limit. The commission voted unanimously to recommend the two permits and the zoning ordinance change for approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Carl Boswell has requested a CUP for a Short-Term Tourist Rental for his property at 338 Walker Farm Drive in the Shenandoah District. The property is residentially zoned, and the Shenandoah Farms Property owner’s association has been notified. One neighboring resident, Larry Cupp, spoke during the public hearing, in opposition to the permit, with similar complaints of unfamiliar persons in an established neighborhood. “We don’t know what they’re up to. It could be anything,” he observed.

Chairman Myers responded that the Conditional Use Permit is just that – conditional. If guests violate the conditions, the permit can be revoked. If there are problems with a guest, the appropriate action is to contact the County Sheriff’s Office.

Matthew Ben Tow has applied for a CUP for a Short-Term Tourist Rental for his Agriculturally zoned property at 110 Demel Court in the Happy Creek District. There were no public comments during the public hearing, and the commissioners discussed a prohibition on open fires as a condition of approval. The applicant indicated that many of the properties nearby have fire pits, and he hoped to offer one for his guests. The applicant could have a fire pit for his own use, but commissioners indicated it should be covered or blocked from guests using it. The Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval for the permit with the additional condition.

Ben Tow, applying for a permit for a Short-Term tourist rental, responds to commission questions about how to avoid open fires on his property.

The Commission’s Consent Agenda consisted of 10 items for Authorization to Advertise for public hearings for CUPs for four short-term tourist rentals, a private use campsite, a bed and breakfast, a guesthouse, a church, and two Zoning Ordinance amendments. Those items will be considered at the next regular planning commission meeting on June 8.

 

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Supervisors juggle budget numbers and taxing variables as await approval of a State Budget

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At a Special Meeting Tuesday, May 10, the Warren County Board of Supervisors were briefed by staff on a trio of tax issues tied to the Fiscal Year-2022/23 Budget. Those included “Tangible Personal Property Tax Rates for the Calendar year 2022”; a Resolution of support for a 34% Tax Relief rate for Personal Property Taxes driven (pun intended) up by an unprecedented hike in used car values due to supply chain issues on new vehicles; and the setting of a public hearing on an ordinance amendment to “Delay Penalties and Interest Upon Certain Local Taxes”.

Finance Director Matt Robertson presented a general Tangible Personal Property Tax Rate of $3.80 per $100 of assessed value; for Volunteer Fire & Rescue Squad members – $1.90 per $100 of assessed value; for Business Furniture & Equipment – $4.00 per $100 of assessed value; and for Aircraft – 75-cents per $100 of assessed value. Robertson described the rates as an approximate 20% revenue decrease in the PP Tax Rate forced into the budget this year to compensate for the increased valuations being experienced. On a motion by Shenandoah District Supervisor Walt Mabe the board unanimously approved the rates as presented.

County Finance Director Matt Robertson leads the board thru the hoops of Personal Property Tax variables for FY-2023. Below, flanked by Asst. Co. Attorney Caitlin Jordan, County Administrator Ed Daley bemoans consequences of delays in approval of a state budget. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Based on numbers assembled by Commissioner of the Revenue Sherry Sours, County Administrator Ed Daley presented a recommended Tax Relief Rate for motor vehicle owners in the county at 34-cents for vehicles valued at $1,001 to $20,000. Vehicles valued at over $20,000 would get the 34-cent relief only on the first $20,000 of value. Vehicles valued at under $1,000 are eligible for a 100% relief rate. It was explained to the board that the annual relief rate on vehicles set locally is tied to the “no Car Tax” legislation adopted, if not fully implemented, by the Virginia General Assembly two years ago. Daley explained that the State would be compensating the County for $4.5 million of the relief based on a 35-cent relief rate, while the County will have to absorb an additional $200,000 required at the 34-cent rate proposed by staff. On a motion by Happy Creek Supervisor Jay Butler, the board unanimously approved the 34-cent relief rate.


Questions answered, at least as well as they can be without final state budget numbers, Happy Creek Supervisor Jay Butler made the motion to approve a 34-cent Personal Property Tax Relief rate tho it means the County will absorb $200,000 of a $4.7 million price tag on that relief.

The board also approved authorization to advertise for public hearing on May 24, an ordinance amendment to delay penalties and interest on certain tax payments until June 25. The county administrator explained by code taxes come due June 5. However, the County is delaying a final budget approval awaiting a decision in Richmond on final state budget numbers. So, with the whole process set back due to the General Assembly’s delay in coming up with approval of their final budget, the county is pushing back its normal deadline this year.

On a motion by North River District Supervisor Delores Oates, the board unanimously authorized advertisement of the public hearing on the tax deadline ordinance amendment. Daley noted the extension as currently worded applied only to Personal Property Taxes, but that staff was looking at adding Real Estate Taxes to the extended deadline as well prior to the anticipated May 24 vote on the ordinance amendment.

Work Session

Following that 6 PM Special Meeting the board convened to a work session to hear a series of presentations by staff and one outside organization, the MLB-developmental-league-associated Valley League Front Royal Cardinals. Introduced by Parks & Recreation Director Dan Lenz, Cards President Donna Settle and Vice-President Alex Bigles, the latter who handled the bulk of a PowerPoint presentation on the beer sale initiative, explained their plan to add closely monitored beer sales to concessions available at the college-level player games. They noted beer sales would be done at a separate stand than general concessions and safeguards to prevent overconsumption or impaired driving leaving the stadium would be in place.

With the supervisors seeking input on the Town’s perspective, Bigles worried that a needed timely decision by the County would be negatively impacted by the Town’s refusal to schedule the Card reps for even a town council work session discussion of the initiative. The Town’s rationale apparently being they were not directly involved in County Parks & Rec property decisions or ABC licensing.

As Cards Board President Donna Settle listens, FR Cardinals Vice-President Alex Bigles pleads his team’s case to be allowed to increase concession revenues through the sale of beer at Bing Crosby Stadium home games. No beer is planned for sale or storage at youth league or high school games, and extensive precautions to prevent alcohol abuse or impaired driving leaving the stadium will be applied.

The Cardinal representatives were followed to the podium by County IT Director Todd Jones, whose PowerPoint presentation was described as a “Show-and-Tell” on the department’s status and planned reviews and upgrades to equipment and processes, including enhanced system security and personnel development.

Following Jones was Sheriff Mark Butler, who jumped on the PowerPoint bandwagon with an overview of his department’s personnel and organizational makeup and goals, as well as an update on the newest proposed location for a departmental training area and auxiliary storage facility. That 16.32-acre space is located off Catlett Mountain Road.

At times Butler was accompanied by County EDA Director Joe Petty and Public Works Director Mike Berry in covering various logistical aspects of development of the parcel and help answer questions about former recommended sites versus the current one.

See all these presentations, PowerPoints, discussions, and votes in the County video.

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From Churchill Downs to Front Royal Town Hall – Longshots are on a roll as Jackson gets council appointment

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In a surprise move following a Special Meeting Executive/Closed Session Monday evening, May 9, the Front Royal Town Council announced the appointment of Zach Jackson to the vacant council seat of Scott Lloyd. Lloyd resigned his seat, effective at the end of the March 28th meeting he announced it at. The policy attorney and former Trump Administration Director of Refugee Resettlement at the Southern Border cited potential conflicts of interest with private sector work he either has done, or may in the future do. Lloyd’s vacated term ends December 31, 2024. The winner of a November 8th Special Election will serve out the remainder of that term.

But a council candidate might be asking if it will be easier to get elected this November in a one-on-one (or more) Special Election race where there can be only one winner, or in the General Election where the top three council vote-getters are seated from the field.

As Royal Examiner reported in late February, along with current council-appointed Town Planning Commission member Josh Ingram, political newcomer Jackson announced his November run for council at a February 24th meeting/social event of the Warren County Republican Committee (WCRC) held on the second floor of the Main Street Mill. – Hey, an 80-to-1 shot won the Kentucky Derby Saturday, longshots are on a roll.

Jackson was appointed on a unanimous 5-0 vote on a motion by Republican Committee member Gary Gillespie, seconded by fellow WCRC member Amber Poe Morris. No other nominations were forwarded at the meeting chaired by Vice-Mayor Lori Athey Cockrell in the absence of Mayor Chris Holloway.


Council initially seemed in no hurry to name a successor to Lloyd, perhaps in the wake of its controversial January 4, 2021, appointment of Jacob Meza to fill Chris Holloway’s vacant seat following his elevation to mayor in the 2020 election. However, work session discussion also indicated a reluctance to have a judge take on the responsibility of filling the vacant seat after 45 days. Monday marked the 42nd full day since Lloyd’s resignation.

Zach Jackson introduces himself to a county Republican Committee crowd on Feb. 24, at the Main Street Mill. Despite being a ‘new kid on the block’ Jackson garnered appointment to council to fill Scott Lloyd’s vacant seat until the result of a November Special Election fills the seat for the remaining two years. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

In addition to the Special Election to fill Lloyd’s vacated seat for the remainder of his term over two years away, four-year council terms are up in the regular November election for Letasha Thompson, Gary Gillespie, and Amber Morris. Morris defeated Bruce Rappaport in a special election to fill out the term of resigned councilman Jacob Meza, who as noted above, was controversially appointed to fill out the unexpired council term of Chris Holloway (expiring Dec. 31, 2022) after Holloway became mayor.

Gillespie along with fellow Councilman Joe McFadden announced runs for mayor at that February 24 Republican Committee dinner event and meeting at The Mill. Should McFadden lose the mayor’s race, unlike Gillespie, he would retain his council seat which is not up for two more years.

Work Session

Following adjournment of the Special Meeting, council convened a work session at which several items considered routine business earmarked for coming Consent Agenda consideration were discussed, along with other items. Virginia Municipal League Committee appointments were also reviewed.

Municipal Energy Cooperative American Municipal Power (AMP) representative Paul Beckhusen, with some assistance from Town Energy Department Interim Director Mary Ellen Lynn, also briefed council on re-bidding a 2022 group solar power purchase due to higher than anticipated bids being received. A summary of that situation was presented in writing to council, prior to a PowerPoint presentation, and Q&A with council:

“AMP issued a request for proposal (RFP) for an in front-of-the-meter (FTM) solar purchase power agreement (PPA) in 2021 based on the aggregate amount of the membership’s confirmed non-binding interest. The submittals were analyzed, and the best-rated and most economical project was shortlisted. A negotiated term sheet was executed with the selected developer.

AMP’s Paul Beckhusen, at podium to right, and Town Energy Dept. Interim Director Mary Ellen Lynn, standing right-center, explain a requested Resolution of participation in a coming AMP energy cooperative power purchase.

“During this time of evaluation and execution of the term sheet, there was a significant run-up in project development costs due to inflationary and supply chain pressures on solar panels and related construction costs. These pressures were not isolated to the selected project but seen across the entire solar development space, which has increased the PPA pricing.

“Due to this changing landscape, the AMP Board of Trustees authorized AMP to proceed with the subscription process for a generic solar PPA that meets all the requirements identified in the RFP. Subscribing the project will allow AMP to confirm the total amount of member participation and have member agreements in place to execute a PPA if/when the … primary negotiated terms are met …”

Lynn later explained to Royal Examiner that if the terms are met and PPA achieved this year, it will show up in the AMP Power Purchase Portfolio in 2025.

Also discussed was the regional municipal energy cooperative’s 2025-2029 “Power Block” purchases and potential impacts and strategies related to looming cost variables there. It was explained to council by staff that the Town’s membership in AMP continues to provide short and long-term benefits due to the group purchasing power and ability to lock in costs on longer term agreements to avoid market pricing fluctuations.

See the Special Meeting council appointment vote, and work session discussions in the Town video.

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Crime/Court

Citizen FOIA timeframe exemption claim against POSF denied, hearing continued to May 11 on allegation of FOIA violations

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Long-time Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms (POSF) Board critic Melissa Chappell-White has added a FOIA violations complaint to her list of alleged failures of the organization. In fact, during a hearing on her complaint in Warren County General District Court on Wednesday, May 4, Chappell-White alleged to substitute Judge Ian Williams that the POSF had failed to comply with what she interpreted as a FOIA timeframe requirement for a response to her filing.

Current POSF Board Chairman Ralph Rinaldi told the court his wife has signed for receipt of the paperwork the morning of the previous day, Tuesday, May 3rd, and he had first seen it later that afternoon. Judge Williams noted that normal FOIA response requirements alluded to 7 days for a provision of requested materials with an “at least 3-day” variable on what appeared to be referenced as notice of receipt of the FOIA filing.

Chappell-White told the court she didn’t believe the referenced timeframe applied in her filing. Asked why by the court, Chappell-White could provide no statutory support for her contended exception. Citing potential “extensive penalties” related to her complaint, Judge Williams noted that the defendant was “entitled to something” in the way of a timeframe to reply to the allegations and prepare a legal defense to the assertion of non-compliance she appeared to be making, adding, “I want to give it to them.”

In an attachment to her petition in addition to asking for payment of her costs, Chappell-White asks for civil penalties of $1,000 for each of what she alleges were “improperly closed meetings” and civil penalties of $500 to $2,000 against “each officer, employee and member (of the POSF) for each and every willful violation” of FOIA law.


With these legal variables facing the POSF and its chairman present representing his board less than 24 hours after having received the Chappell-White filing, after consultation with the court clerk, the hearing was continued to Wednesday, May 11th at 11:15 a.m. Williams noted he would not be in court that day, with the hearing likely held in front of Judge Michael Helm in the wake of the recent retirement of Judge W. Dale Houff.

A hearing on a FOIA non-compliance complaint against the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms (POSF) will return to the Warren County Courthouse this coming Wednesday, May 11, nine days after the POSF chairman was served notice of the complaint. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

 

Queried about the allegations outside the courtroom, POSF Inc. Board Chairman Rinaldi said all the regular POSF meetings are held on a publicly posted schedule, with any special meetings advertised at POSF headquarters, which by his understanding met legal requirements for meeting notices.

Chappell-White, along with a couple of other prominent POSF critics, have noted they have elected not to become involved with the POSF as members and generally do not attend POSF meetings to give input on POSF perspectives in an advisory role to Warren County on the management of the Farms Sanitary District since 2010/11. Prior to that the POSF had managed the Sanitary District in conjunction with the county government since the Farms Sanitary District inception in 1995.

Chappell-White’s filing asserts that: “Most recently, POSF Inc’s actions have violated the rights and privileges of the taxpayers of the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District (SFSD), including petitioner Chappell-White, by planning in secret to try to take over management of the SFSD without giving notice of its intentions and opportunity for SFSD taxpayers to become informed or participate in the decision-making process. Respondent met secretly to develop its plan, and even kept secret its intention to present its plan at a Board of Supervisors meeting on March 29, 2022.”

Background

In the wake of the POSF Inc.’s notice to the county government that it wished to terminate the 2011 management agreement, effective at the end of this fiscal year, the Warren County Board of Supervisors has accepted that notice per conditions of that agreement. And while POSF critics have claimed credit for that 2010/11 County management takeover, Rinaldi noted that POSF leadership at the time, including him, approached the County about taking over management responsibility due to the amount of money involved.

According to County Administrative Office records, of 1,762 surveys distributed to Farms residents in December 2009 regarding the future of the Sanitary District’s management, only 252 (14.5%) were returned. Of that less than 15% response, 66.2% favored a change in management away from the POSF, with 82% of that majority favoring the County taking over. The primary reason cited by supporters of a change was the size of the sprawling Sanitary District requiring a larger management entity’s oversight.

Melissa Chappell-White is alleging FOIA non-compliance in the calling of POSF meetings and closed sessions to discuss legal matters as the move to alter the 2011 Farms Sanitary District Management Agreement approached. Current and past POSF Chairman Ralph Rinaldi, below at the same March 29 BOS meeting Chappell-White is pictured at above, has a different perspective. Those dueling perspectives are headed toward an eventual courthouse clash.

It appeared the POSF anticipated retaking the Sanitary District Management lead in the wake of County financial reporting lapses and the submission of higher road improvement project cost estimates than the POSF was finding over the past year. However, at its meeting of May 3rd, the board of supervisors instructed the county administrator to advertise for Farms residents applications to a Sanitary District Management Advisory Board. Rinaldi has said he feels the current POSF Board is more qualified for the management role than he felt it was in 2010/11.

However, it remains to be seen how many current POSF board members will feel compelled to apply for those Advisory Board positions after being rejected as group, apparently without notice, from the county government.

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Thank You to our Local Business Participants:

@AHIER

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Family Preservation Services

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Mountain Trails

National Media Services

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Examiner

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

St. Luke Community Clinic

Studio Verde

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
64°
Partly Cloudy
5:56am8:22pm EDT
Feels like: 64°F
Wind: 5mph S
Humidity: 57%
Pressure: 29.84"Hg
UV index: 0
ThuFriSat
77/50°F
88/59°F
90/59°F

Upcoming Events

May
21
Sat
9:00 am Kids’ Fishing Tournament @ Shenandoah River State Park
Kids’ Fishing Tournament @ Shenandoah River State Park
May 21 @ 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Kids' Fishing Tournament @ Shenandoah River State Park
Held in the picnic area by the river. 2 prize categories: biggest catch and most unique catch Children ages 15 years and younger are eligible to compete Check in with the ranger at Shelter 1[...]
10:00 am Birds of the Woods and Fields @ Sky Meadows State Park
Birds of the Woods and Fields @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 21 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Birds of the Woods and Fields @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sensory Explorers’ Trail Join Shenandoah Chapter Master Naturalist Margaret Wester and explore the habitat of birds and the woodland wonders utilized for their survival. Discover the diverse stories of the Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, Wood[...]
11:00 am National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 21 @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Children’s Discovery Area This National Kids to Parks Day, join us for fun-filled activities and music at our interactive discovery stations. Kids, pick up a scavenger hunt brochure and hike on the Track Trail or[...]
May
22
Sun
2:00 pm Common Scents: Historic Perfume ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Common Scents: Historic Perfume ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 22 @ 2:00 pm – May 23 @ 4:00 pm
Common Scents: Historic Perfume Making Workshop @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Have you ever wondered how to harvest the fragrance of a flower or capture the irresistible aroma of sandalwood? Then this hands-on workshop is for you! Join us and learn how people in[...]
5:00 pm Let’s Come Together @ DoubleTree by Hilton
Let’s Come Together @ DoubleTree by Hilton
May 22 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Let's Come Together @ DoubleTree by Hilton
A Night of Prayer and Worship, All are Welcome Prayers led by Pastor John Miller of Abundant Life Church and other Local Pastors DoubleTree by Hilton 111 Hospitality Dr. Front Royal, VA Sunday, May 22[...]
May
25
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
May 25 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
May
28
Sat
8:00 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 28 @ 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area: 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[...]
May
30
Mon
7:00 pm 2022 Memorial Day Community Band... @ Gazebo
2022 Memorial Day Community Band... @ Gazebo
May 30 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
2022 Memorial Day Community Band Concert @ Gazebo
2022 Memorial Day Concert by Front Royal Community Band Monday, May 30, 2022, 7pm, at the Gazebo on Main St. (sponsored by American Legion Post #53)
Jun
1
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jun 1 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]