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Linden Rezoning Disaster 

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The Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS) June 15 decision approving the rezoning for development of a Sheetz at Interstate-66’s exit 13 is a disappointment. Since the justification for that decision was not apparent, I asked several supervisors who supported it what their reasoning was. Property rights were one response.  However, in prior testimony to the BOS I offered that the landowner’s property rights had and were still intact, and he was able to conduct any of the permitted agricultural activities on his property. No one should be entitled to a zoning change just because it provides them a financial benefit.

What about the property rights and interests of the hundreds of nearby residents whose quality of life will be forever diminished, as well as the rights of other citizens who travel through that area who took the time to voice their opposition to this proposal?  Plus, what about the concern that the proposed gas station posed a potential risk to the water supply of a residential community?

Another answer received was that commercial development at that exit was inevitable, which is nothing short of ridiculous, in my opinion. If that were true, there would be no need to analyze the pros and cons of any issue because the outcome would already be a certainty. A free people should have the right to determine what is in the best interest of their community on every separate matter on its independent merits.  Just because something might be a nice fit at a location does not mean that it’s appropriate, beneficial, or desirable. Should commercial development be justified at every highway exit simply because it provides easy access?

A supervisor suggested that the landowner had been cooperative with the community and previously permitted the use of his property for a school bus stop for free, and thus he was entitled to special consideration, I guess as a reward. Should being a good neighbor and doing the right thing be an altruistic action rather than a business decision with an expectation of future compensation? What would that say about a person’s character?

None of the answers offered to date have provided reasonable justification for the rezoning. A Sheetz service station at that location will provide no significant benefit, beyond the school bus stop proffer, to the citizens of Warren County since similar types of businesses are already operating in proximity. Concerned residents made it abundantly clear that the bus stop provision in the planned development did not offset the negative aspects of the full proposal. Also, it was pointed out in public testimony that the proposed development was not consistent with our Comprehensive Plan, but that didn’t seem to be acknowledged by or influence the supervisors. If I didn’t know the supervisors better, I would think that we may have begun slipping back to the old political ways of good old boy, biased politics. But discounting that, I am at a loss to consider any critical thinking logic that could be used to support the rezoning approval.

Your guess is as good as mine as to why the Happy Creek Supervisor voted to approve the rezoning after initially opposing it. Strangely enough, he was the ringleader of the effort to reconsider the original decision which denied the rezoning request. Maybe he’ll be forthcoming with his reasoning at some point, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for his full transparency. Could it be just a last-minute opportunity to screw constituents who previously mounted a recall effort, (since it does not appear that he is pursuing another term in office)?

Up until now, I have been a consistent, vocal supporter of this Board, but the rezoning decision should cause concern for all Warren County citizens. If this Board can be so wrong on this matter, which should have been a unanimous denial, in my opinion, how can we feel comfortable that more nonsensical decisions will not follow in the future? The Board’s decision, which benefits only one citizen at the expense of many, is very troubling to me. At a minimum, the supervisors that supported this should be transparent and provide a clear and complete public explanation of why they chose to represent the interests of one, possibly greedy, property owner over the majority of citizens who were opposed.

Even more concerning than the recent bad rezoning decision is that this Board has indicated it may not be committed to having a fully participatory government by receiving citizen feedback, as is evidenced by the arbitrary 60 minutes in-person public comment period limit imposed at the Board meetings. Unlimited time should be permitted for the Board to hear the opinions of their constituents. Being able to send letters, emails and make personal contacts with the BOS is not as effective as in-person testimony in an open forum, in my view. I hope the Board will give this matter the attention it deserves and correct this bad policy.

Unfortunately, the rezoning is a done deal and that area will soon be despoiled forever. Once completed, the Sheetz at Exit 13 will be a constant reminder of how our representatives failed to protect the public’s interests when they had the opportunity. We can only hope this decision was a one-off, and we’ll witness better decision-making in the future. We’re all human, so making a mistake periodically can be expected and forgiven.

Gary Kushner 
Bentonville, Virginia

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Opinion

Republican Heroes

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It is about time we recognized the true heroes of the Republican Party.  They are not the dopey louts who rampaged through our nation’s capital and the moral cowards who still cover for them.

They are not the ranting demagogues exploiting the emotions of the resentful.  They were the unsung people not seeking attention, but doing their jobs: from poll workers to police officers.  They were Republican state legislators and governors who did not bend to pressure to overturn the elections in their state.  They were Republican judges who did not allow mere allegations unsupported by credible evidence to deny votes that happened.  They were a Vice President who stayed loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law above any man.  They were Republican congressional representatives and senators who did not fear to try and hold their own president accountable and dared to stand on their conscience instead of following the majority in their party.  They did not win.  But they showed more bravery than the majority in their party who did.

It is Republicans like those who could save the soul of the party from being lost to a band of fascists if they find the nerve to do so.  My father was a lifelong Republican who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  After the sacrifices that generation made to defeat fascism, I’m glad he was not alive to see his party dishonored by America’s Mussolini.

James Tweed
Ocean City, NJ

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Opinion

Appreciative parent supports Funk for School Board in Happy Creek District

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I am writing this letter to extend my support and endorsement to Dr. Antoinette Funk for Warren County, VA School Board-Happy Creek District.

As a parent of a former Ressie Jeffries student, I would like to share my experience of having Dr. Funk as assistant principal during my child’s elementary education.

Dr. Funk is a conscientious professional. Her decisions were always based on what was in my child’s best interest. We were not always in agreement; however, she always gave explanations regarding her decision and willingly listened to our concerns (including those of my son). She provided other options as she deemed available and made final decisions based on the needs of my son, providing support at school and at home.

Dr. Funk understands the relation between having a strong bridge between school and home. She was fair and respectful. My child benefited tremendously throughout his school years and into adult life due to his time at Ressie under Dr. Funk’s educational and social guidance. Being a parent of a special needs child herself gave her insight into the daily challenges of students and teachers. I found her to be honorable, thorough, and supportive. I knew my son was being academically challenged.

I say without reservation that Dr. Funk is dedicated and commits herself to serve the educational needs of each individual student. Her expectations and consequences were always made clear.  Her commitment to education is a priority, and she remained a source of support and education well into his middle school years.

I ask you to make an informed decision in your choice in the upcoming election.  If you want an experienced, dedicated individual, committed to making decisions and standing up for what is best for the education of your children, vote for Dr. Antoinette Funk for Warren County, VA School Board-Happy Creek District.

Juanita Shafer
Warren County

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Opinion

We need Angela Robinson on our school board

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Angela Robinson – a person who will fight for your child.

I am writing to share my experience with Angie Robinson as a teacher, advocate and now friend. My daughter had begun to show signs of learning difficulties when she was in elementary school. I had known Angie through the school, but had not had her teach my child. When my daughter made it to fourth grade, she had fallen behind, and I just could not get the services needed for my daughter.

Angie assured me that she would do whatever she could to help my daughter and to address the concerns that I had. Angie was able to do that and even more. She made sure my child got her special services through an IEP, and she continued to follow through with my child throughout her years in Warren County schools. She offered to go to IEP meetings after she left the elementary setting. She even went as far as to continue to tutor my daughter throughout her high school years.

Angie cares about our children. She cares about their journey and their future. She dedicated her time to fight for my daughter. This is why we need her on our school board – to fight for the students who need to be fought for. She understands how the system works and how important it is to make our students successful. I am proud to say that my daughter graduated from Skyline High School, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of Angie Robinson. She cares about our students, our families and our schools. We need Angela Robinson on our school board.

Stacey Sprague
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

Response to ‘Open Letter to Warren County voters…’

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The writers assert the reason for the relatively high percentage of private and home-schooled children in the community are generally failing standards in state and this county’s public school systems. This assertion ignores the impact of a half century of location of private, Catholic educational institutions into this community, prominent among those Christendom College, Chelsea Academy and Seton Home School. Those institutions, among others like Human Life International, have been followed into this community by an expanding Catholic population of a generally conservative outlook, an outlook that might blur the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state for some.

Many families within that community have their own preference for a religiously based education for their children, regardless of the quality of the public school system here. Add the even longer-standing private school option of Air Force Junior ROTC and Methodist-sponsored Randolph-Macon Academy, now at the middle and high school levels, and you have an even greater private school alternative to public education in this community that predates current debates over educational and social policies and standards.

Whether one receives a better quality education publicly, privately, or in the home is matter of opinion and debate that will reflect the perspectives – religious, social and political – of the involved parties, as Mr. Waller’s and Lundberg’s letter illustrates. But leaving relevant facts out of the debate to promote one’s opinion as factual analysis is too often a symptom of advocacy, as opposed to objective exploration of the topic under scrutiny.

Roger Bianchini
Royal Examiner Editorial Board member

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Opinion

Setting the Record Straight Re: School Budgets

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On October 19, the Royal Examiner published an open letter from two concerned citizens regarding their opinion that the entire Warren County School Board needs to be replaced. Many things were said in that letter to which a person might choose to respond, but one thing, in particular, stood out to me: “…it costs $64 million annually to educate 4,958 students in the Warren County Public School (WCPS).  That means Warren County taxpayers are paying almost $13,000 to educate one public school student a year.  That seems excessive!”

Is $13,000 per student excessive? I decided to compare some numbers to find out.

Firstly, as reported by the Royal Examiner on May 6 of this year, the budget approved for 2021-22 was $63,944,829. Divided across 4,958 students, that would be $12,897 per student.

The national average for public school spending is $12,612 per student. This is a difference of $285. Put another way, Warren County spends 2.25% more per student than the national average.

Excessive, indeed.

Ah, but excess is not determined solely by the grand total. We could spend a fraction of this budget, and if it was allocated poorly (spent frivolously to paint fences, perhaps) then it could still be considered excessive. The website for Warren County Public Schools helpfully has a link to the full budget; on page three, we can see that 76.31% of the budget ($48.8 million) is explicitly allocated for instruction.

Is that excessive?

Also interesting to note, near the end of the Warren County Public Schools budget (on page 38), the School Board has helpfully compared Warren County’s per-student spending to the state average. Since 2017, Warren County Public Schools has consistently spent almost $2,000 less per student than Virginia’s average.

Is it excessive to have a budget in line with the national average, a budget BELOW the state average, with almost all of the budgeted funds being explicitly directed to educating our children?

I suppose we will learn what the people think on November 2.

Joe Plemmons
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

Grateful classroom grandparents endorse Melanie Salins, Stephanie Short and Al Gunn for Warren County School Board

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As grandparents and residents of Warren County, we are grateful to have Melanie Salins (North River District), Stephanie Short (Happy Creek), and Al Gunn (write-in candidate Fork District) running for the Warren County School Board.

They are all parents, and teachers with varied teaching experience who genuinely care about students’ welfare, what is being taught to school age children, and all that pertains to what is in their best interest.

These individuals are strong supporters and advocates for parental involvement in their children’s education. A primary heart-felt desire of theirs is to listen to, empower, and engage parents in discussions addressing curriculum concerns.

These candidates understand that parents know their children the best, and are the first and primary educators of their children.

We strongly encourage you to cast your votes on November 2nd for Melanie Salins, Stephanie Short and Al Gunn.

Sincerely,

Tim and Jean Hart
Warren County, Virginia

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