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Public calls for more active Property Maintenance Code enforcement – and it works

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Introducing herself as a ‘libertarian and a landlord’ - Melanie Salins calls for the town government to protect its citizens from public health and public safety abuses by what she termed ‘slumlords’. Photo/Roger Bianchini. Video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

A strong public outpouring of support for stronger property maintenance enforcement led to an unexpected result at Monday’s Front Royal Town Council meeting. Work session discussion indicated a clear majority in support of a so-called “baby step” move of Option B of five options presented to council by staff in recent months.

After nine of nine “Public Concerns” speakers addressed council and the mayor in favor of the more proactive and less costly Option C two councilmen, John Connolly and Gary Gillespie, stated that they had changed their mind in favor of Option C that day.

Connolly directly attributed his change of heart to the public turnout in favor of Option C – which included many who did not speak – at the meeting. Following the meeting, Gillespie elaborated to the media on his meeting comments about earlier discussions that day with code enforcement colleagues swaying his stance.

Gillespie explained those colleagues were at his work in Loudoun County where he serves as a planning reviewer, which he added does involve code enforcement.

With Gillespie and Connolly joining earlier Option C proponents Chris Morrison and Jacob Meza, Meza’s motion, seconded by Morrison, to adopt the Option C initiative of adoption “of the Property Maintenance Code in full without a Rental Inspection Program” passed 4-2, with Vice-Mayor Eugene Tewalt and Councilman William Sealock dissenting.

While the compromise option falls short of Morrison’s hope of implementation of the full code with renter protections in place, he noted that option was not likely to gain a majority council consensus at this point due to its added enforcement staff costs estimates from $50,000 to $150,000 a year.

Staff’s estimate of the costs associated with Option C of building code enforcement, essentially on a complaint or outside structure observation basis, was legal costs associated with landlord challenges of Town citations against them.

Royal Examiner’s camera was there to capture the meeting. Watch the Council at work and the public comments that swayed at least one councilman and council discussion prior to its vote.

Download the agenda here.

Local Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other business, the Town Council’s Monday:

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

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

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

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

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Local Government

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

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Photo and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner

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

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Local Government

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

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

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

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Local Government

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

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Photo and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner

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

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Local Government

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

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


Also Warren County Public Schools – Greg Drescher


And report from Ed Carter, VDOT

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