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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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By 3-2 vote Town Council votes to seek additional information on Holloway alley ‘vacation’ request

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Following a public hearing at its meeting of January 23rd, a divided Front Royal Town Council voted to appoint ostensibly neutral “viewers” with experience with vacating public alleys to visit and examine a Town alleyway members of former Mayor Chris Holloway’s family are seeking for “vacation” – no, not to sunnier shores, but rather into the ownership hands of Mr. and Mrs. William (father of Chris) Holloway and Mr. and Mrs. Wade (brother of Chris) Holloway – for their personal use.

Council’s 3-2 vote, Skip Rogers and Bruce Rappaport dissenting, to seek more information from “neutral” observers came after hearing from eight citizens during the public hearing. And if not neutral, those town citizen stakeholders opposing the requested privatization of the Town alleyway into the two Holloway families’ hands did bring their own histories of alleyway usage and maintenance to the table.

Seven of eight speakers, either residents whose home properties abut the alley or members of the Church of the Brethren, which also abuts the alley, all urged denial of the request so as not to limit their use of and rear-access to their properties and homes from the alley between 12th and 13th Streets off of Virginia Avenue. On the church side, use of the alley to facilitate emergency evacuations of as many as 70 to 80 members, were an emergency to occur during Sunday services, was noted.

Perspectives on the non-paved alleyway being sought for vacating and ownership by members of the Holloway family. The first shot is looking west from Virginia Ave. Church of the Brethren is to the right. The second shot is taken from the Church of the Brethren parking lot at the midway point of the alley, and the third shot shows the far end of the alley at adjoining properties. Whoever owns it, it looks like a little entrance-way maintenance is in order.


The only public hearing speaker for the proposed vacation to the Holloway family was Joe Silek Jr., the applicant’s legal representative. The applicants themselves did not address council at the public hearing. Silek told council that his clients had been “taking care of the alley for years.” However, one Church of the Brethren member, Lee Keeler, noted that the church had contracted Lee’s Lawn Care for mowing the dirt and grass alleyway, and other neighboring property owners noted their own activities in maintaining the alley for ease of access to their properties for moving heavy materials or furniture through closer rear entrances.

One neighboring speaker, Wayne Woodward, said he liked the Holloways but was against privatizing the alley for their personal use. He said he asked Wade Holloway if it was really necessary and why they were asking to transfer ownership of the long publicly accessible Town-owned alley to themselves. “Because we can,” Woodward reported of the recent mayor’s brother’s reply. Chris Holloway left office at the turn of the year after deciding not to run for re-election last year. His previous year-plus in office had been marked by public debate following staff revelations that he and fired former Town Manager Steven Hicks appeared to use their respective offices to pressure Town Planning Department personnel into hurried, out-of-process approval of non-code compliant permitting of a six-unit residential building project of the mayor’s construction company near South Street in town.

The reason a council majority felt the need for additional information than that gathered from staff, involved citizens, and the applicant prior to a vote of approval or denial was addressed by Amber Morris, who, after some discussion with Town Attorney George Sonnett, made the motion to seek more information prior to a vote.

Amber Morris made the motion to contract third-party ‘viewers’ to report to council prior to a vote on approval or denial of the Holloway family request to acquire ownership rights to the unpaved Town alleyway utilized by neighboring property owners, including Church of the Brethren members.

After noting options to approve or deny the project directly following the public hearing, Morris said, “And then the third motion, which is the motion I made, which allows us to appoint viewers that have experience in vacating alleyways. We do have feedback from town staff regarding utilities and things of that nature, and we do have feedback from adjoining property owners and some of the stakeholders in that area. And so the motion that I’ve proposed would allow an unbiased presentation and report of factual information about vacating this alleyway.”

How that “unbiased” report will be weighed by council against the subjective explanations of neighboring property owners and church member stakeholders heard at the public hearings as to the reasons for their opposition based on long-time use of the public right-of-way remains to be seen. But from their pre-vote remarks, it appeared Rogers and Rappaport were both ready to cast votes of denial of the request that evening.

Councilmen Skip Rogers and Bruce Rappaport, latter below, told their colleagues they believed enough information had been acquired through impacted citizen input, staff reports, and applicant submissions to reach a decision of denial of the vacation and acquisition request of the Holloway family members that evening. Three of their colleagues did not agree.

“I’d really like council to consider who is benefiting from vacating the property,” Councilman Rogers said preceding the vote, noting a definite benefit to the applicants.

However, he added, “Who is not benefiting from the property vacating are those folks who have been using that property, that right of way if you will, for many, many years. So, I ask council to consider that as well,” Rogers concluded.

Rappaport followed Rogers comments from a similar perspective: “The alley has been as it is for 28 years, that’s been made clear. I believe that the alley should remain open for public use. It’s clear that the church has said that they use it, and they maintain it as well as the applicant Holloway. And I just have a problem with the vacation process when it’s clear that there are, even though it’s clear that many of the (church) members don’t live next door, they still have a right as users of the alleyway. And I think it would be best to leave it open,” Rappaport said in joining Rogers in favor of a vote to deny with the information council already had.

Click here to see the public hearing and subsequent council discussion beginning at the 38-minute mark of the Town video; Mayor Cockrell calls for a vote on the motion to hire neutral viewers to develop a report on the alley vacation application at the 1:16:15 video mark.

 

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Town Police Chief Magalis acknowledges departmental personnel movement and promotions accomplished in-house

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At the January 23rd Front Royal Town Council meeting, Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis introduced officers recently promoted in the department and others recently brought on board. Near the meeting’s outset (beginning at the 6:30 mark of the Town video below), Chief Magalis brought six of seven FRPD officers forward for acknowledgment. Now-Major Jason Ryman was not present for the presentation.

“I always look forward to this type of a presentation where we can talk about some new folks that we’ve brought on and folks that we’re moving into different areas of the department,” the chief told Mayor Cockrell and council in opening his presentation.

Magalis noted the recent retirement of Major Kevin Nicewarner at the outset of the new year, whom Chief Magalis noted was “Florida” and “Gulf Coast bound” after nearly 30 years with the department, in explaining the personnel juggling involving incumbent officers Captain Brian Whited, Sergeant Tony Clingerman, Corporal Michael Gallagher, and Major Jason Ryman.

Chief Magalis then introduced recent departmental additions (from right to left in photo and Town video) Jacob Dodson, and Richard Williamson, both on patrol duty since September, and Jack Weaver, a Front Royal native who transferred to FRPD from the Winchester Police Department.


Chief Magalis, at the podium, introduced, from left, Captain Brian Whited, Sergeant Tony Clingerman, Corporal Michael Gallagher, and recently added FRPD Officers Jack Weaver, Richard Williamson, and Jacob Dodson. Now-Major Jason Ryman was not present. Below, council and the mayor pose for a photo with the acknowledged FRPD officers.

The chief then segued back to his departmental veterans (again right to left in photo and video) Corporal Michael Gallagher (promoted from Master Police Officer), Sergeant Tony Clingerman (promoted from Corporal), and Captain Brian Whited (from Sergeant), and the absent Major Jason Ryman (from Operations Captain). Chief Magalis noted that now-Captain Whited would take over Logistics Captain duties as Captain Crystal Cline, who had previously handled those duties, moved to Operations.

“So, quite a bit of movement, we’ve got some new faces, and I’m happy to report at this time,” the chief said with a nod to Town Manager Joe Waltz, the Human Resources Department, and council, “We’re actually fully staffed” whispering the last two words, observing that, “Right now, and I’m proud to say it because there isn’t a whole lot of law enforcement agencies that are operating with a full enforcement staff. And right now,” the chief added knocking on the wooden podium, “we are.”

He noted a vacancy in communications but concluded, “We’re very happy where we’ve been able to bring recruitment and retention to. And that’s something we’re going to talk to you guys about as we keep trying to move that forward … so we can continue to attract qualified people like these gentlemen here and retain all that institutional knowledge instead of letting them walk out the door because we’ve been able to staff this from in house and that’s awesome … I’d just like you to congratulate all these guys for coming on board and doing such a great job,” Chief Magalis concluded, leading to a standing ovation from portions of the crowd and council dais.

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Council upholds BAR denial of demolition permit for portions of old ‘Murphy Theater building’ in Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District

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After hearing from SEESUU LLC applicant Gary Wayland (1:18:48 linked video mark) and his real estate agent Bill Barnett (1:29:22 mark), as well as three other public hearing speakers reiterating points made by 14 speakers at the December 13th Board of Architectural Review (BAR) public hearing opposing the SEESUU application for a partial demolition permit for the historic “Murphy Theater” building at 131 East Main Street, the Front Royal Town Council unanimously upheld the BAR denial of that application.

Board of Architectural Review denies partial demolition application for Murphy Theater building

Councilwoman Amber Morris offered the motion on the appeal (1:41:03 mark). Citing the record of the BAR public hearing and “additional evidence” her motion was to “… affirm the decision of the Board of Architectural Review, the BAR, denying the issuance of Certificate of Appropriateness on the application submitted by SEESUU LLC to demolish and remove a portion of a contributing structure on a property located at 131 East Main Street …” Morris’s motion was seconded by Vice-Mayor Wayne Sealock, leading to the unanimous vote upholding the BAR denial.

Citing a family history of involvement in town historical preservation, Amber Morris made the motion to uphold the BAR denial of the partial demolition permit for 131 E. Main St., also known as the old Murphy Theater building. Below, attorney David Silek cited a past family history of ownership of the building in arguing against demolition of any portion of the historic structure.

Addressing council on reasons to uphold the BAR denial were David Silek (1:21:00), a family member of past owners of the property; Ellen Aders (1:26:50), a neighboring resident, business and property owner; and James Smithlin (1:35:10), who offered observations on the historic nature of the terra cotta portion of the old theater building “made before talking movies” he noted, targeted for demolition. Those speakers, as several council members later would, pointed to the applicant’s lack of structural engineer’s report citing the condition and viability of renovation as opposed to demolition of the old theater and rear residential portions of the building.


“When you buy property in a Historic District it comes with a great responsibility. You’re buying into what is and what will be the story of out town,” Aders began, adding of other Historic District property owners, “To allow demolition of the Murphy Theater would be a punch in the gut to folks like the Poes, who are bringing life back to the old Warren Paint & Supply building; the Barnharts, who searched tirelessly for just the right stone for the Weaver building’s facade, and the Capital Gate,” Aders said of the group she pointed out is bringing the Afton Inn back to usability, among other Historic District property owners, “who take great pride in maintaining their little piece of Front Royal’s history.”

Adjacent and nearby property owner Ellen Aders urged council not to deliver a ‘punch to the gut’ of Front Royal Historic District property owners who are committed to preservation along lines of Historic District structural ambiance and restoration.

Aders then referenced the BAR public hearing at which she also spoke, pointing to a reluctance by the applicant to provide sought-after information. “If you watched the BAR public hearing you saw a total unwillingness on the part of the owner of the Murphy Theater. He denied the BAR access to the interior; he denied the request for a structural engineer’s survey; he refused to provide a cost analysis of restoration versus demolition and new construction.”

Aders also pointed to occupied apartments and daily meetings held “like clockwork” in the targeted portions of the building. Just because the owner is unwilling to restore the building, doesn’t mean that it’s ready to be torn down,” Aders concluded in urging council to reject the denial appeal.

Following SEESUU real estate representative Barnett to the podium, Smithlin opened by noting online research indicating terra cotta as “the oldest building material known to man”. Noting a personal 31-year history of meetings in the building, Smithlin said, “I’ve never seen a piece of tile or a whole tile fall.” While citing great respect for both the applicant and his real estate agent, he noted, “That building is over a hundred years old and is part of Front Royal’s Historic District. It would be tragic to tear it down, rather than restore it. As he closed he noted the Murphy Theater dated to “before they had talking movies” in urging council not to overturn the BAR demolition denial.

“I’m here to do something good for the town, that’s my intent and that’s really all I have to say,” Wayland told council in opening the public hearing when called to the podium by the mayor. He noted that the email he had sent to the town manager for distribution to council prior to the meeting was his intended “for the record” statement for the appeal hearing.

SEESUU LLC principal Gary Wayland asserted his plan to demolish and rebuild rear sections at 131 E. Main St. was a ‘good thing’ for the town and its Historic Downtown area. Below, SEESUU real estate agent Bill Barnett told council that restoration of the terra cotta portion of the building, particularly the towering 70-foot tall theater stage section, is impractical because it is ‘functionally obsolete’. He did not address the functionality of the rear, apartment section, also targeted for demolition.

After introducing himself as a real estate agent with a track record of restoration projects in downtown Front Royal, including “seven on Chester Street when it was one of the most run-down streets in the town” Barnett attempted to tie the SEESUU plans for the Murphy Theater building, including 40 or more “dwelling units” too small to be termed apartments by town code, to that track record. Pointing to the 40 x 40, 75-foot tall tower section of the terra cotta, theater/stage portion of the building, Barnett said that it, “Is totally functionally obsolete. There is no commercial or residential use that you can apply to this property today. The challenge of it is to find a way to put this property back into use, so it’s producing taxes and jobs and places for people to work and to live.”

Two views of the old Murphy Theater building and applicant’s rendering of rebuild. The oldest sections are the commercial addition facing East Main, added in 1908/09, and the original Methodist Church section dating to 1879, which is the darker bricked section behind the E. Main commercial addition that goes two windows back along Church St. The lighter terra cotta (believed dating to 1920s) and rear apartment section (circa 1940s or ’50s) are the targeted for demolition portions of the building.

But if the applicant and his agent were selling the SEESUU partial demolition and rebuild project as a positive for the historic downtown community, neither the public nor council was buying.

On the council side, the reviews of the demolition proposal and subsequent rebuild weren’t too positive. Addressing the applicant, Councilman Skip Rogers (1:48:16 mark) pointed to the period architectures involved in, not only the targeted building, but the Historic District in general. “We love the architecture, we love the feel, we love the comments of the folks that come into our community and appreciate how beautiful it is, what a feel you get when you go into the downtown area. So, my one concern, sir, is the impact that demolition would have,” Rogers paused, then referenced what he had seen in renderings of the reconstruction proposal.

“When I looked at that rendering I honestly thought of a contemporary prison, a very stark, almost aluminum-appearing structure, bright and shiny and static. And that in itself was enough for me to say this is not the way I believe our community needs to grow.”

Councilman Skip Rogers described renderings of the applicant’s plans for a rebuild as ‘very stark’ reminding him of ‘a contemporary prison’ and ‘not the way I believe our community needs to grow’. Below, the BAR and town planning staff at terra cotta section on site visit several days before their Dec. 13 public hearing and vote of denial of the SEESUU partial demolition permit application. The BAR was not granted inside access. But it looks like a little exterior maintenance along cracked section of the approximately 100-year-old terra cotta bricks might be in order. Final photos are the applicant’s renderings of the rebuild from front and rear.

Having made the motion to uphold the BAR denial, Councilwoman Morris cited her family history in the community and its ties to the historic memory of the community (1:45:46 mark), stating, “I really care about the preservation of the Historic District and I do have a vision for Front Royal. And unfortunately, and I mentioned this in the work session,” she said of comments on ownership in the Historic District, continuing, “and other people have touched on this – when you purchase a building of this magnitude with these plans in place, you know these costs and these things are going to arise. It’s a property owner’s responsibilities. And with that being said, with the current rendering we’d be foolish as a council  … to approve this without a vision of what we intend to see moving forward.”

Morris also addressed the by-right aspect of denial after an unsuccessful year of attempting to sell a building denied demolition in the Historic District raised at earlier work session discussion. She reasoned that offered at a reasonably assessed value to parties interested in Historic ownership and restoration as the applicable town code indicates should be done, it would likely find a buyer.

And if Rogers had compared the rebuild renderings to a prison, Morris was perhaps gentler in her assessment – “The current rendering looks like something, I know some people have mentioned Georgetown, for me it looks like something I’d find in Miami. And it’s not the vision I have for Front Royal or our Historic Downtown that we all know and love.”

See these and other comments in the Town video.

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Supervisors hold initial third monthly meeting to deal with Short-Term Rental-fueled increase in public hearing numbers

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On January 24, at 6 p.m., the Warren County Board of Supervisors held their newly added third meeting to deal with the influx of public hearings, largely driven by Short-Term “Tourist” Rental permitting applications. Nine of the 14 public hearings that night were on Short-Term Rental applications. These Public Hearing-driven meetings will be a regular part of the supervisor’s schedule moving forward.

But prior to getting down to scheduled business, Board Chairman Vicky Cook acknowledged the passing of Company 8 District Fire & Rescue Chief Homer Cross the previous day, asking those listening to remember “his family, his friends, and his colleagues in your thoughts and prayers during this time of heartache.”

 

Chair Vicky Cook opened the meeting with a remembrance of Company 8 District Fire & Rescue Chief Homer Cross before setting the supervisor’s sights on their 14 public hearing agenda. Perhaps fortunately, nine of those public hearings had no speakers, and only one reached as many as four.

 

Below is a list of the 14 January 24th public hearings topics with the staffer’s name and position presenting the item and the board’s action on them:
C. Public Hearings (unless otherwise indicated there were no public hearing speakers):


1. Ordinance to Amend and Re-Ordain Section 160-62 of the Warren County Code – Caitlin Jordan, Senior Assistant County Attorney – Result: On a motion by Walt Mabe, seconded by Cheryl Cullers, the proposed Ordinance Amendment was approved by 4-0 vote, Delores Oates absent due to illness according to the chair.

2. Sale of County-Owned Real Property Located at 30 East Jackson Street – Alisa Scott, Finance Director – Result: On a motion by Jay Butler, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the sale at a price of $200,000 to TCG Real Estate Holdings LLC was approved by a 4-0 vote.

This 30 E. Jackson St. property was approved for sale at $200,000 to TCG Real Estate Holdings LLC.

3. Modification Request for Conditional Use Permit 97-11-01, Alan Munson for Commercial Campground, Canoeing, Boating (kayaking and inner-tubing) and Fishing Equipment Rental and Sales Located at 192 Panhandle Road and Identified on Tax Map 34 as Lot 3B – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the CUP Modification request was approved by a 4-0 vote.

4. Modification Request for Conditional Use Permit 2015-01-01, Gillian Greenfield & Richard Butcher for Private Use Camping (Non-Commercial) Located off Beech Road and Identified on Tax Map 13C, Section 1, Block 1, as Lot 206 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from four public hearing speakers, including applicant Gillian Greenfield, two Shenandoah Shores residents opposing the private use application, and a SSPOA official who sought tabling of the matter to resolve legal oversight authority questions, on a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board voted 4-0 to table the matter to acquire additional information to be discussed at a February work session before returning to the board for a vote.

5. Conditional Use Permit 2022-10-02, Maura & Daan De Raedt for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 54 Arrowood Road and Identified on Tax Map 23A, Section 1, Block 4, Lot 1 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from applicant, Reston resident Daan De Taedt, and an adjoining neighbor asking for denial of the application by absentee owners, the board on a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, voted 4-0 to deny the CUP application.

6. Conditional Use Permit 2022-10-03, Wendy C. Willis for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 154 Woodthrush Way and Identified on Tax Map 24D, Section 11, Block 00, Lot 1012 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.

7. Conditional Use Permit 2022-10-04, Anthony Constable for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 195 Old Oak Lane and Identified on Tax Map 15E, Section 2, Block 2, Lot 628 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.

8. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-01, Jacob Horowitz for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 5433 Gooney Manor Loop and Identified on Tax Map 44 as Lot 18 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.

9. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-02, Jeffrey May for Gunsmithing Services Located at 425 Valley Road and Identified on Tax Map 30C, Section 1, Block 2, Lot 19 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Mr. Butler, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.

10. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-03, Lydia Freeman for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 400 Chipmunk Trail Lane and Identified on Tax Map 24A, Section 210, Lot 420 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from one nearby neighbor in opposition to the application, on a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 3-1 vote, Mr. Butler dissenting.

11. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-04, Sergiu Luca for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 104 Marino Lane and Identified on Tax Map 15D, Section 2, Block 5, Lot 128A – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from one adjacent neighbor in support of the CUP application, on a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Mr. Butler, the board approved the application by a 4-0 vote.

12. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-05, Stacy Weng for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 5 Oakwood Drive and Identified on Tax Map 13C, Section 1, Block B, Lot 10A – Matt Wendling, Planning Director – Result: On a motion by Mr. Butler, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.

13. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-06, Matthew Williams & Jay Gilbert for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 1862 Khyber Pass Road and Identified on Tax Map 23A, Section 321, Lot 1A – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the board approved the CUP application by a 3-1 vote, Mr. Butler dissenting.

14. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-07, Matthew Williams & Jay Gilbert for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 1424 Khyber Pass Road and Identified on Tax Map 23A, Section 935, Lot 28 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from applicant Matthew Williams, on a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the board approved the CUP application by a 3-1 vote, Mr. Butler completing a trifecta of “No” votes on Short-Term-Rental CUP applications in Skyline Estates, these last two and an earlier one by the De Raedts in which his colleagues joined him in denying the application.

Their business completed, the chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:48 p.m.

Click here to see the staff summaries of the public hearing items, including Planning Department recommended conditions, board discussion, motions, and votes in the County video.

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Local Government

Lead off Liaison Committee meeting of 2023 tries to outline a path toward improved Town-County joint efforts

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Front Royal Town Council and Warren County Board of Supervisors members met at the first Town-County Liaison Committee meeting of 2023 at 6 p.m. Thursday evening, January 19. Newly-elected Mayor Lori Athey Cockrell chaired the meeting at the Town Hall second-floor meeting room. Vicky Cook joined Cockrell in representing their respective boards for the first time as non-rotating Liaison Committee members from their respective chairman’s seats.

And whether the Liaison Committee should continue in its established six-seat format, each board’s chairman and one rotating member from the town and county’s elected bodies (Morris and Cullers, respectively, this time), with staff support from the town manager and county administrator, was one of an 11-topic agenda tackled over three-and-a-half hours.

Noting continued efforts to restore more positive inter-municipal cooperation in the wake of hostile civil litigations launched by the town council, circa 2019/2020, in the wake of the joint Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority financial scandal, Mayor Cockrell suggested perhaps including more members officially, perhaps the entire elected bodies. Expanded membership, the mayor reasoned, would keep all members directly involved in matters of common interest to both municipal governments. That might be especially important on her side, Cockrell noted, with four and soon five of council’s six seats occupied by new members seated by election or appointment since November.

Town-County Liaison Committee members from the near left at table: Town Manager Joe Waltz, Council member Amber Morris, Mayor Lori Cockrell, County Administrator Ed Daley, County Board Chair Vicky Cook, Supervisor Cheryl Cullers, and at near right, Town staff support from Council Clerk Tina Presley. At left other elected officials present, including from far left down the front row of public seating, Councilmen Skip Rogers and Bruce Rappaport, Supervisor Delores Oates, and Councilman Josh Ingram’s legs.


 

That discussion during the meeting’s first topic – “Review of Liaison Committee Meeting Policy,” was eventually followed by one directly related matter: “Front Royal-Warren County EDA Negotiations/Next Steps,” and a number of others on matters that can evolve into either mutual or dueling self-interests.

Those included:

  • Community Water Capacity Update
  • Disposition of the McKay Springs Property
  • Town and County Comp Plan update
  • The resurrection of Youth Activities/Reinstitution of Youth Center
  • Tourism Business/Marketing Plan Update and Next Steps for DMO (Destination Marketing Organization), the 501-C6 organization created to head a joint tourism effort by the town and county governments known as “Discover Front Royal.”

One unasked question on that latter front was: “If it is a joint tourism effort, why isn’t the DMO called “Discover Front Royal and Warren County?” That would seem particularly true since many of the natural resources that draw tourism to the community and related businesses found in and around national and state parks are outside of town, in the county.

Be that as it may, at least “improved communications and cooperation” are on the table now. A disconnect on that front became apparent when that previous council lineup, circa 2019/20, ignored the advice of then-Mayor Eugene Tewalt to forego hostile civil litigation against the joint EDA over disputed liabilities in favor of “good faith negotiations” between the Town, County, and EDA. Interim Town Manager Tederick soon brought the Alexandria-based law firm of Damiani and Damiani to council’s attention to handle that civil litigation on the Town side.

Be that as it may, at least “improved communications and cooperation” are on the table now. A disconnect on that front became apparent when that previous council lineup, circa 2019/20, ignored the advice of then-Mayor Eugene Tewalt to forego hostile civil litigation against the joint EDA over disputed liabilities in favor of “good faith negotiations” between the Town, County, and EDA. Interim Town Manager Tederick soon brought the Alexandria-based law firm of Damiani and Damiani to council’s attention to handle that civil litigation on the Town side.

That same level of cooperation continues despite the still unresolved civil litigation may have been indicated by compliments from officials on both sides of the liaison table to the efforts of Town Finance Director B. J. Wilson for his work on tracking EDA-related expenditures as the County and its now unilaterally run EDA (in the wake of the Town’s decision to create its own unilateral EDA) attempt to assist auditors in finalizing reports on the final years the alleged financial misappropriations occurred.

Mayor Cockrell noted that it was difficult to negotiate an out-of-court settlement of the EDA financial issues without those final annual audits tracing the movement of EDA, Town, and County resources. But it would appear that financial accounting movement in that direction is occurring, and it would seem in good faith and out of court.

Click here to see the full Liaison Committee meeting discussion of the above-cited topics and the rest of the agenda in the Town video. The full agenda, in order of scheduled discussion with the municipality that brought the topic to the table noted, were:

1) Review of Liaison Committee Meeting Policy – Town
2) Review of MOU for Use of Board Meeting Room – Town
3) Tourism Business/Marketing Plan Update and Next Steps for DMO – Town/County • MOU between Town and Discover Front Royal
4) Water Capacity Update – Town/County
5) Town and County Comprehensive Plans Update – Transportation -Town/County
6) Alternate Access to Shenandoah Shores Road and Mary’s Shady Lane Town/County
7) Front Royal-Warren County EDA Negotiations/Next Steps – County
8) Report from Front Royal/Warren County Anti-Litter Council – County
9) Disposition of McKay Springs Property – County
10) Discussion of Youth Activities/Reinstitution of Youth Center – Town
11) Joint Towing Advisory Board – Town

 

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Local Government

DeDomenico-Payne named to fill Mayor Cockrell’s council seat pending Nov. Special Election, other appointed vacancies also filled

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Following a Closed/Executive Session convened at 9:38 p.m. at the end of its regular meeting on Monday evening, January 23rd, the Front Royal Town Council appointed Melissa DeDomenico-Payne to fill the vacant seat resulting from Lori A. Cockrell’s election as mayor.

Melissa DeDomenico-Payne, Ph.D., is the Grants Manager at Laurel Ridge Community College in Middletown, Virginia. She has a B.A. English and B.S. Psychology (magna cum laude), M.A. from Shenandoah University; Psychological Services Counseling, Marymount University; and a Doctoral Degree in Public Administration (graduated with distinction), Capella University.

Melissa DeDomenico-Payne

The agenda summary and draft motion of the matter noted that: “The term of office of the person so appointed will begin immediately upon qualification and will expire upon the qualification of the successful candidate elected during a special election to be held on November 7, 2023.”


Other appointments announced at Monday’s meeting as part of “New Business Items” included:

  • Michael S. Williams to the Planning Commission;
  • Lewis Moten to the Board of Zoning Appeals, where he will replace Michael Williams;
  • And Gary Gillispie, Ellen Aders, and Charles Gornowich to the Local Board of Building Code Appeals.

It was noted that filling the new Board of Building Code Appeals is a step toward realizing enforcement of the long-floundering Derelict Building Code council has been trying to implement for several years.

In regular meeting business council unanimously upheld the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) denial of the SEESUU LLC application for partial demolition of the Old Murphy Theater building at 131 East Main Street, and by a split 3-2 vote, Rogers and Rappaport dissenting, authorized the appointment of “viewers” to inspect the alley vacation area requested by members of former Mayor Chris Holloway’s family to allow their private use of the localized access way between 12th and 13th Streets off of Virginia Avenue. Five speakers, either residents whose home properties abut the alley or members of the Church of the Brethren, which also abuts the alley, all urged denial of the request so as not to limit their use of and rear access to their properties. More on those actions in coming Royal Examiner stories.

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Thank You to our Local Business Participants:

@AHIER

Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

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

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Vetbuilder.com

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

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

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
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Upcoming Events

Feb
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
Feb 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[...]
Feb
4
Sat
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Feb 4 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
Feb
6
Mon
8:00 am Chocolate Crawl
Chocolate Crawl
Feb 6 @ 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Chocolate Crawl
The Front Royal Chocolate Crawl is back for its 3rd year, and it is BIGGER than ever. With over 20 businesses on our list, you’re guaranteed to find something amazing (to purchase) and meet some[...]
Feb
7
Tue
8:00 am Chocolate Crawl
Chocolate Crawl
Feb 7 @ 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Chocolate Crawl
The Front Royal Chocolate Crawl is back for its 3rd year, and it is BIGGER than ever. With over 20 businesses on our list, you’re guaranteed to find something amazing (to purchase) and meet some[...]
Feb
8
Wed
8:00 am Chocolate Crawl
Chocolate Crawl
Feb 8 @ 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Chocolate Crawl
The Front Royal Chocolate Crawl is back for its 3rd year, and it is BIGGER than ever. With over 20 businesses on our list, you’re guaranteed to find something amazing (to purchase) and meet some[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Feb 8 @ 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[...]
Feb
9
Thu
8:00 am Chocolate Crawl
Chocolate Crawl
Feb 9 @ 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Chocolate Crawl
The Front Royal Chocolate Crawl is back for its 3rd year, and it is BIGGER than ever. With over 20 businesses on our list, you’re guaranteed to find something amazing (to purchase) and meet some[...]
Feb
10
Fri
8:00 am Chocolate Crawl
Chocolate Crawl
Feb 10 @ 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Chocolate Crawl
The Front Royal Chocolate Crawl is back for its 3rd year, and it is BIGGER than ever. With over 20 businesses on our list, you’re guaranteed to find something amazing (to purchase) and meet some[...]
Feb
11
Sat
8:00 am Chocolate Crawl
Chocolate Crawl
Feb 11 @ 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Chocolate Crawl
The Front Royal Chocolate Crawl is back for its 3rd year, and it is BIGGER than ever. With over 20 businesses on our list, you’re guaranteed to find something amazing (to purchase) and meet some[...]
Feb
12
Sun
8:00 am Chocolate Crawl
Chocolate Crawl
Feb 12 @ 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Chocolate Crawl
The Front Royal Chocolate Crawl is back for its 3rd year, and it is BIGGER than ever. With over 20 businesses on our list, you’re guaranteed to find something amazing (to purchase) and meet some[...]