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Republicans prep for mayoral forum; deal with Sayre-Mabe canvass backlash

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Two former mayors, Gene Tewalt, center, and Hollis Tharpe pictured at town council meeting in early 2017 will be facing off for mayor in the November 2019 Special Election to fill out the balance of the term Tharpe resigned from May 2. But will they face off Thursday, August 22, at the Republican Committee-sponsored Mayor’s Forum? Perhaps if Bébhinn Egger, left, returns to moderate – Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

Front Royal mayoral candidates Eugene Tewalt and Hollis Tharpe will have the opportunity to face off in a Candidates Forum held by the Warren County Republican Committee this Thursday, August 22.

However since by town charter and code Town elections are non-partisan – meaning candidates may not campaign under a party banner and their names may not carry a political party designation by them on the ballot – no party nomination is at stake. Rather candidates will simply be trying to court potential voters present for the event, and garner a Warren County Republican Committee endorsement.

Contacted two days before the mayoral forum scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Villa Avenue Community Center (aka the old library), former Mayor Hollis Tharpe said he planned to attend as a committee member but was undecided on participating in the forum surrounding a non-partisan election. Tharpe noted he remains a Republican County Committee member, an affiliation he said he has maintained since 2010.

The other person on the mayor’s ballot, Councilman and former Mayor Gene Tewalt said he would be present to participate. While a former committee member who noted he was endorsed by the local Republicans in his initial run for mayor, Tewalt said he let his Republican Committee membership lapse around 2010. He remains unaffiliated politically at this time.
Partisan pledge uproar

And while the Republican Committee waits to see how its planned mayoral pre-endorsement forum unfolds, it is also dealing with repercussions of the decision not to let independent
Shenandoah District Board of Supervisors candidate Walter Mabe’s wife vote in the party canvass of August 15.

Committee Chairman Steve Kurtz verified that Mabe’s Republican incumbent opponent Tom Sayre, present to help hand out ballots, identified Taffy Mabe entering the voting area. Sayre then approached Mrs. Mabe and asked if she was going to support Republican nominees in the November general election, which obviously include him as her husband’s opponent in the Shenandoah District supervisor’s race.

“No,” was reported by observers as her answer, one might imagine pointedly directed Sayre’s way.

As Ruth Clatterbuck listens Walt Mabe chats with Janice Hart, right, at July 12 candidate’s meet and greet at Strokes of Creativity Boutique & Studio on South Royal Ave. across from the Warren County Courthouse. Mabe is challenging incumbent Shenandoah District Supervisor Tom Sayre in November. Sayre in turn challenged Mabe’s wife’s right to vote in the recent Republican nominating canvass.

A source close to Mabe’s campaign said that Mrs. Mabe’s perception was that Sayre then declined to give her a ballot. However Kurtz said that Sayre looked his way for acknowledgement of a response and the committee chairman standing about 10 feet away, instructed that she not be given a ballot due to her response.

However Kurtz also said that Mrs. Mabe was the only person who showed up to vote in the canvass who was asked that question about general election party support. The committee chairman said he hoped to make a point that a Republican canvass should be for Republican voters.

However asked by this reporter at the canvass what the rules of participation were, Kurtz explained you had to be a registered voter and not show up online as having voted in a Democratic primary in the past several years.

We asked the committee chairman were it answered honestly, how many canvass voters of the nearly 600 who showed up he thought might have been lost had all been asked the same question Mrs. Mabe was about blanket party nominee support in November. In this volatile election season Kurtz admitted half, perhaps more.

Candidate stands outside the Aug. 15 Republican Canvass – why was only one visitor asked THE question?

Anything to be learned from this experience, we asked.

Not on the record apparently.

Republicans who have won their party’s nomination for the November ballot include Stephen Jerome, Circuit Court Clerk; John Bell, Commonwealth’s Attorney; Jamie Spiker, County Treasurer; Sherry Sours, Commissioner of the Revenue; Jason Poe for Sheriff; and Sayre, Delores Oates and Robert Hupman for Shenandoah, North River and South River County Supervisor seats, respectively.

Deputy Circuit Court Clerk Janice Shanks, who is currently serving as Circuit Court Clerk in the wake of Daryl Funk’s departure for a seat on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court bench, has filed enough signatures with the Registrar’s Office to be included on the November ballot as an independent.

In the wake of her 15-vote loss to Silek Law firm attorney Jerome in last week’s Republican Canvass, Shanks has not responded to Royal Examiner inquiries about whether she intends to campaign as an independent for that office in November. If she does it would make it a three-way race. Former County Deputy Clerk Angie Moore, now in the Frederick County District Court Clerk’s Office, is on the November ballot as an independent in the Circuit Court Clerk’s race.

Poe is in a four-way Sheriff’s race with Democrat Jorge Amselle, and independents Mark Butler and Mickey Licklider; Oates is facing off against independent and former Town Councilman and Vice Mayor Shae Parker in the North River District; and Hupman is taking on independents Leslie Matthews and Cheryl Cullers in the South River District.

North River Supervisor and Board Chairman Dan Murray (R) and South River Supervisor Linda Glavis (I) have both announced their retirements and are not seeking reelection.

So as summer and political temperatures rise toward triple digits, stay tuned as Warren County and Front Royal move through an already volatile 2019 election season in the shadow of public discontent over “business as usual” in the wake of the Town-County Economic Development Authority financial fraud investigation and consequent civil and criminal cases stemming from it.

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Warren County budget process continues with requests from County Departments and Constitutional Officers: Clerk of the Court, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Cooperative Extension

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Angie Moore, Clerk of the Court, presents her budget request to the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held their second budget work session regarding the FY 2020-2021 budget on Tuesday, February 11, 2020. In this meeting, the Board of Supervisors heard from County Departments and Constitutional Offices. All members of the Board of Supervisors were present for this second meeting. County Administrator Doug Stanley and Assistant County Administrator Bob Childress also attended this second meeting.

In part 6, Stanley gave a brief overview before the first request from Northwest Community Services presented their budget request, followed by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

In part 7, the Building Inspections/Permits, the 26th District Circuit Court and the Commissioner of the Revenue presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 8, the Voter Registrar, County Treasurer, and Parks and Recreation presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

Now, in part 9, we’ll hear from the Clerk of the Court, Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Virginia Cooperative Extension as they present their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.


Clerk of the Court

The circuit court is the trial court of general jurisdiction in Virginia, and the court has the authority to try a full range of both civil and criminal cases.  Civil cases involve disputes essentially private in nature between two or more parties; criminal cases are controversies between the Commonwealth and persons accused of a crime.  Only in a circuit court is a jury provided for the trail of many of these disputes and controversies.

Commonwealth’s Attorney

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office works daily with Federal, State, and local law enforcement to fight criminal activity in Warren County and other jurisdictions.  By statute, the Commonwealth’s Attorney is the chief law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction in which he or she serves.

Virginia Cooperative Extension

The Warren County office of Virginia Cooperative Extension is your local connection to Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. Through educational programs based on research and developed with input from local stakeholders, we help the people of Warren County improve their lives. We provide education through programs in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Family and Consumer Sciences, 4-H Youth Development, and Community Viability.

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New Planning Commissioners assume their seats, expect a busy year

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The now-fully manned Warren County Planning Commission met February 12 and after Chairman Robert Myers (Happy Creek district) opened the meeting, disposing of the agenda and prior meeting minutes, there were no citizen presentations, allowing the commission to move right into public hearings for commission action. Attending for the first time were Commissioners Crystal Beall (South River), and Scott Jersjes (North River).

A public hearing was held regarding a Conditional Use Permit requested by Asa and Andrea Foss for a short term tourist rental at 653 Whitney Lane, Bentonville, in the South River Magisterial District. Planning Director Taryn Logan provided the commission with a briefing on the request. The applicants purchased the property as a weekend getaway for family and friends, and seek to offset the cost of taxes and maintenance of the property by also using it as a tourist rental. The health department had approved the property for an occupancy of up to 8 persons. Ms. Logan indicated that all permit-related notifications had been completed and that the staffing process was delayed to allow the subdivision homeowners association to have a meeting to consider the proposal. The planning director then listed the necessary conditions for the department to recommend approval to the commission:

1. The applicant complies with all Warren County Health Department requirements, with the maximum number of occupants not to exceed 8

2. Annual well water testing

Suzanne Savage speaks to the Planning Commission to oppose the proposed use. Photos and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Ms. Logan then briefed the commission that the department had received two letters from other property owners in the Timberland Manor Estates subdivision. The Chairman then opened the floor for public comments. Four community members, Ann Tompkins, Deborah Haynes, Roy Lee, and Suzanne Savage, addressed the commission to oppose the proposed use. Common concerns included the loss of the “flavor of the neighborhood”, security of the subdivision, increased traffic, potential loss of privacy, and “miscommunication or misunderstanding” regarding the number of days the applicant’s property could be occupied by short-term guests. Mr. Lee told the commission that a land survey he had commissioned revealed that the applicant’s driveway was partly on Mr. Lee’s land, and he was not bothered by it until this new change was proposed. He indicated that the driveway would now have to be moved and a fence constructed. He indicated that he currently uses his property on weekends, but hoped eventually to retire there and is concerned about people being there that should not be. Ms. Savage, another near neighbor to the subject property, spoke to express her adamant opposition to the proposed change. She made the distinction between a Bed & Breakfast, which would typically have a host on-site, and an AirB&B which often does not.

She cited the result of a vote taken by the owners association as 12 opposed, and 7 in favor. Ms. Savage indicated that it would take 17 property owners to change the association covenants, which was not likely. She alleged that the manager identified by the applicants was not ”on-site” and would not be able to easily respond in case of an issue. She did not want strangers in the neighborhood that she did not know. She was also concerned about tenants with dogs.

Mr. Foss indicated that he strove to live by the golden rule with “no exceptions” and listed several provisions in the terms and conditions that were responsive to the concerns of the neighborhood, including banning ATVs, fireworks, and loud music.

The final speaker was the property owner, Asa Foss. He indicated that he and his wife enjoyed hosting friends and family at their property and only wished to fund improvements to the property by occasionally renting it out. He pointed out that his property is the first one as you enter the neighborhood. The nearest house is only occupied a few weeks a year. Mr. Foss indicated that he strove to live by the golden rule with “no exceptions” and listed several provisions in the terms and conditions that were responsive to the concerns of the neighborhood, including banning ATVs, fireworks, and loud music. He indicated they had delayed the application process to allow the neighborhood association time to discuss the proposal at a formal meeting.

After the public hearing, Commissioner Crystal Beall (South River) asked about the management for the property. The Applicant responded that he was local and very responsible. I had maintained the property for the previous owner and was highly regarded. The second new commissioner, Scott Jersjes (North River), asked how far away in miles the manager lived. Mr. Foss indicated “two or three”.

Once the applicant had answered commissioner’s questions, Vice-Chairman Hugh Henry (Fork District) commented that each permit of this type was unique, but that short term rentals had generally improved properties when contrasted with long-term rentals, due to more regular maintenance, the existence of property management plans, and the need to preserve the marketability of the product. He supported the general idea that a person ought, within reason, to be able to do what he wants with his property. He observed that the pluses with this proposal are that the property is in the front of the subdivision and not the back, and there is a very good setback from the neighbors. Mr. Henry acknowledged the issue with the driveway easement as a real issue, but separate from the permit issue, and one that would have to be settled between the two property owners affected.

Chairman Myers reminded the applicant that this is a conditional use permit, and that if the conditions are violated, the permit can be taken away, and that the planning department can perform checks to determine compliance. On a motion by Commissioner Henry, seconded by Commissioner Joe Longo, the commission unanimously voted to forward the package to the Warren County Board of Supervisors with a recommendation for approval.

The second public hearing was opened by the chairman to consider a Conditional Use Permit for a short term tourist rental requested by Sean O’Reilly for his property at 317 Old Barn Lane, in the south river magisterial district. Planner Matt Wendling provided a briefing for the Commission and indicated that the applicant had been involved in short-term tourist rentals for approximately 10 years. The dwelling was built in 2019 as a short-term tourist rental business to support local businesses and showcase the area’s natural resources. The subdivision in which the property is located does have an HOA, and the planning received an E-Mail from the HOA indicating that short-term rental is specifically allowed by the HOA covenants and that the HOA had no objection to the proposed use. Mr. Wendling further specified the conditions for the permit:

1. Compliance with all Warren County Health Department regulations, and occupancy not to exceed 8 persons

2. Annual well water testing

Sean O’Reilly explains to the Planning Commission his experience with short-term rental property.

Mr. Wendling indicated that all permit-related notifications had been completed. There were no questions from the commissioners, so the public hearing was opened. The only speaker was the applicant, Mr. O’Reilly. His remarks touched on his experience with short-term rentals and acknowledged that there is often fear of the effects of having new people in town, but he has found it to be a great experience to get away and relax, end everyone has an interest in preserving peace and quiet, both tenants and neighbors. He added that the booking systems such as AirB&B and HomeAway have added review processes for both the homeowners and the guests. This allows the homeowner to “vet out” the partiers and problem guests. The system can then reduce the risk of a bad tenant experience. There were no questions from the commissioners. Commissioner Jersjes introduced a motion to recommend approval, and Vice Chairman Henry seconded. The motion was unanimously approved, and the permit request will now go to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

The commission then turned to requests for authorization to advertise, the preliminary step before public hearings for requested changes of use.

Joseph Coleman has requested a conditional use permit for a short-term tourist rental for his agriculturally zoned property at 37 Wellspring Road in the South River magisterial district. Ms. Logan indicated that a management plan will be required to be submitted for planning department review before a public hearing. The property is not located in an area with a homeowners association and the property would meet the county’s setback requirements. The building is a converted church. Motion to approve the authorization to advertise was introduced by Vice-Chairman Henry, seconded by Commissioner Longo. The Commission voted unanimously to approve.

Jody T. Lee has requested a conditional use permit for private camping on his residentially-zoned property in the Man-Da-Lay subdivision on Burma Road in the North River Magisterial District. Mr. Wendling told the commission that the applicant purchased the property in 2016 and did not know that a conditional use permit was required for camping until told by the Planning department. He seeks to bring the property into compliance. He seeks to use the property for seasonal camping and have access to the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. There have not been any conditional use permits issued for this property although other properties in that subdivision have been issued similar permits for recreational use. There would be a requirement for an RV to be on the site for 180 consecutive calendar days, and the site would be subject to inspection to ensure compliance. The property is located in a special flood zone, so an emergency plan would be required to provide for evacuation in case of a flood event. Commissioner Jersjes asked if there would be a limitation on the number of RVs on the site. Mr. Wendling indicated that 2 RVs would be the maximum per parcel or contiguous parcels. Vice-Chairman Henry moved to approve the authorization to advertise. Commissioner Longo seconded and the Commission voted unanimously to approve.

Tony and Shasta Haun have requested a conditional use permit for private camping on their residentially-zoned property in the Man-Da-Lay subdivision on Burma Road in the North River Magisterial District. Chairman Myers pointed out that this was an adjoining property to the one previously considered. This property is also located in a special flood zone, so a flood emergency evacuation plan would be required. There would also be a requirement for an RV to be on the site for 180 consecutive calendar days, and the site would be subject to inspection to ensure compliance. Mr. Wendling indicated that the property owners were notified at the same time as Mr. Lee of the requirement for a permit. It has not been the subject of any previous conditional use permits. Vice-Chairman Henry moved to approve the authorization to advertise. Commissioner Longo seconded and the Commission voted unanimously to approve.

Planning Director Logan then introduced the 2019 Planning Department Annual report and provided the commission with some highlights before submission to the Board of Supervisors. The July 1, 2019 population of Warren County including the Town of Front Royal was 39,936. 150 new housing permits were issued during 2019, which equates to a .88% growth rate, well within the comprehensive plan goal to not exceed 2% annual growth. The Planning commission completed and adopted a Strategic Vision for the County in 2019. The commission approved 20 Conditional Use Permits last year, of which 9 were for short-term tourist rentals, and five for private camping. 2019 Commission projects included the review of a request for a new training facility for the Warren County Fire & Rescue, a zoning ordinance change and conditional use permit for expansion of a facility for the Backroom Brewery, and review of a rezoning request for a 20-acre site just north of the jail for Equus Capital Partners to create an industrial site and 324,000 SF warehousing facility. The commission also spent a lot of time in 2019 on the Crooked Run West proposal for rezoning and development, which was eventually withdrawn. Work is ongoing surrounding the redevelopment of the former Capital One bank site for a multitenant building that will contain Five Guys, Chipotle, and one additional unspecified business. Finally, the commission reviewed the development of a new Chapel at Christendom College, currently under construction.

The planning Director welcomed all the new commissioners and assured them that this will be a busy year. Vice-Chairman Henry moved that the commission accept the Annual report and forward it to the Board of supervisors. Commissioner Jersjes seconded, and the commission voted unanimously in favor.

Chairman Myers and Vice Chairman Henry welcomed all the new Commissioners, as did Kaitlin Jordan, Assistant County Attorney. Mr. Wendling assured the commissioners that the Planning Department staff looks forward to serving them. Mr. Petty, the Zoning Administrator, indicated that he intends to bring some County Code text amendments to them, and is working with the County Attorney’s office to ensure they are in harmony with State and Federal codes.

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Criteria for future downtown events, festivals, street and parking lot closures established

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Downtown business owners gathered for a third and final time Thursday evening, February 13, with Town staff and Envision Meeting Facilitator Chips Lickson to finalize recommendations on future guidelines for downtown events requiring the closing of portions of, or the entirety of, the East Main Street business corridor and Village Commons area. Majority consensuses had been established on preferred criteria at the previous meeting.

So, early Thursday evening at the Villa Avenue Community Center, as County Fire Fighters responded to a call at the Villa Avenue apartments across the street, Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick led the 15 businessmen and women present through a review of those preferred criteria established January 30. Also present were Mayor Gene Tewalt and wife Juanita, Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock, Town Administrative Assistant Tina Presley, Town Police Chief Kahle Magalis, and toward the meeting’s end as her public-school event in an adjacent meeting room ended, Councilwoman Lori A. Cockrell.

There was an emergency in the neighborhood, but unlike Monday’s council meeting it wasn’t inside the respective meeting room on Thursday night. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Tederick found himself on the less contentious ground than three days earlier when 20 citizens heaped criticism and sometimes personally-pointed questions his and council’s way regarding the town government downsizing plan emanated from his office as part of the Town’s FY 2021 Budget process. But perhaps that’s what happens when you invite impacted citizens to participate in the process prior to its implementation, rather than simply spring sweeping changes their way unannounced and un-publicly commented on prior to the dropping of the municipal administrative hammer.

Other than several clarifications regarding the length of events related to partial area closings to vehicular traffic; methods of accessing crowd sizes and adjusting to unexpected influxes of people; funding splits related to Town-sponsored or co-sponsored events, those previously established criteria were verified without much discussion. It was established that during major festivals and events access to Main Street and its business community remained open to the public without charge; that tickets were purchased, for example, to facilitate the ability to participate in wine or beer purchases during the Wine & Crafts Festival or other events where alcohol was being served.

However, ticket distribution at entrance points was discussed as a way to establish accurate event headcounts of the crowd size.

Among the recommended criteria on the front end, or the “Application” process were:

1 – a 50/50 split in operational costs between the Town and the event organizer;

2 – provision of actual financial results compared to event budget projections and actual attendance versus what had been projected for the event;

3 – no restrictions on the closing of the Village Commons parking lot for necessary event space;

4 – no limit on the number of events a specific organization can have in a given year;

5 – applications may be submitted to the Town at any time during the year, and first-time events must give a substantive attendance estimate.

Matt Tederick fields a question from Royal Cinema owner Rick Novak. Novak noted that he had missed the Jan. 30 meeting, but with a nod to cameraman Mark Williams, he was able to catch up with all that occurred on the Royal Examiner/National Media video.

Responding to a question, Tederick appeared to agree that in the case of Town-sponsored events, the Town would be responsible for 100% of event costs. During the discussion of costs, it was established that the Warren Heritage Society, not the Town, was the sponsor of the Festival of the Leaves, and carried its own insurance for the event.

Attendance criteria for Main Street or Village Commons parking area closings, agreed upon by an “overwhelming majority” and the police chief on January 30:

1 – less than 750 people, Main Street and the parking lot stay open;

2 -750 to 1500 people, the full parking lot should be closed; and “between 1500 and 5000” people, Main Street can be closed.

There was additional discussion on how much of East Main Street might be closed for different sized events and how vendor booth placements should be regulated along Main Street so that certain businesses are not always the ones being blocked from view. It was also agreed that vendors should not be allowed to set up or store goods so that the sidewalk would be blocked. And it was agreed that the organizer should be responsible for vendor compliance with that condition.

This is the plan – just kidding, on Thursday there were no additional creative art whiteboard drawings of UFO landings at the Front Royal Visitors Center, as there had been on Jan. 30, as illustrated here.

As for the criteria for “Closures” once application and attendance criteria are met:

1 – Main Street may be closed all day providing all other criteria are met;

2 – 5000 was the “magic” attendance number to close Main Street all day;

3 – both Main Street events and full closure of the Village Commons parking lot is limited to twice a month;

4 – but there is no limit to the Town permitting partial closure of the Village Commons parking lot.

Another topic raised was how to balance date priority between regular events with what was termed “once a decade” or “once in a lifetime” events such as a bike race or other special events that might include a run through downtown Front Royal. It was observed that such special events were likely not to be last-minute applications, so there should be sufficient time to figure a way to accommodate conflicting events of that nature were they to occur. The likely outcome appearing to be which event could more easily accommodate a date change.

The Apple House’s George McIntyre speaks as, from left in his row, Rick Novak, William and Nina Huck listen.

In response to a discussion of unexpected situations, like a larger than anticipated crowd developing or other situations impacting public safety, Tederick observed that the town manager “or his designee” should have “a certain amount of discretion” to deal with evolving situations.

Tederick said final copies of the Envision Report established from the three meetings would be available to the public through his office.

See the discussion of the recommendations that will be made through the town manager’s office to council regarding the application and operational criteria by which future downtown events and festivals will be judged and implemented, and any necessary town code changes guided, in this exclusive Royal Examiner video:

Downtown business, property owners offer Main Street wish list

Lively discussion of future downtown event permitting and street closures

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Warren County budget process continues with requests from County Departments and Constitutional Officers: Voter Registrar, County Treasurer, Parks and Recreation

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Carol Tobin, Voter Registrar – Director of Elections & General Registrar presents her budget requests to the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held their second budget work session regarding the FY 2020-2021 budget on Tuesday, February 11, 2020. In this meeting, the Board of Supervisors heard from County Departments and Constitutional Offices. All members of the Board of Supervisors were present for this second meeting. County Administrator Doug Stanley and Assistant County Administrator Bob Childress also attended this second meeting.

In part 6, Stanley gave a brief overview before the first request from Northwest Community Services presented their budget request, followed by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

In part 7, the Building Inspections/Permits, the 26th District Circuit Court and the Commissioner of the Revenue presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

Now in part 8, we’ll hear from the Voter Registrar, County Treasurer, and Parks and Recreation.


Voter Registrar

The Voter Registrar’s Office is committed to providing each citizen of Warren County the opportunity to register to vote and, once registered, exercise his or her right to vote in an efficient and equitable manner in accordance with the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Code of Virginia. Additionally, support must be provided to the Electoral Board to prepare for, conduct and administer elections, and obtain and certify election results.

County Treasurer

The treasurer is a constitutional officer elected by the voters of Warren County, Virginia.
The mission of the Warren County Parks and Recreation Department is to acquire, develop, operate and maintain a park and recreation system which will improve the quality of life for all  residents of Warren County through educational, park, recreational, cultural and leisure opportunities.
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Kushner outlined Town downsizing plan’s critique, if not tone as questions mount for elected officials

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As previously reported 20 of 24 public speakers addressing the Front Royal Town Council, Mayor Eugene Tewalt and Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick on February 10, regarding recent staff terminations and planned governmental downsizing in the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget proposal were highly critical of the plan, the process or both. Two speakers took a more middle ground approach and two tied to the Warren County Republican Committee of which Tederick and at least four council people are members, defended the plan.

In our initial report on that meeting we summarized salient points made by the 20 critics with more detail on the two municipal downsizing defenders and council and the town manager’s responses to the criticism. We promised more detail on the numerous criticisms and this is that additional detail.

Due Process?

First public concerns speaker Gary Kushner established an initial outline, if not the occasionally accusatory tone, of what was to come for the most part of the first 90 minutes of Monday’s council meeting. Kushner opened with a criticism of the process and inconsistencies with that process compared to Tederick’s own previous statements on his perception as his role as interim town manager.

Beginning public comments on Feb. 10, Gary Kushner laid out the case for the prosecution, or rather citizen critics of the Front Royal Town Council and its appointed interim town manager’s town government downsizing plan and process tied to the FY 2021 Budget proposal. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini. Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

“I thought that the Interim Mgr. was appointed to:

1 – supervise ongoing government operations and projects;

2 – shepherd the process to get candidates for a permanent manager; and

3 – prepare a (Fiscal Year) 2020/21 budget – NOT change personnel in the (current) 2019/2020 budget … The interim manager said that he intended to prepare options for a permanent (town) manager to consider but then actually implemented his ideas instead. Those actions are not consistent with the citizens’ desire for more transparency and a greater opportunity to participate in their government,” Kushner said of the public mood in the wake of the Town-County Economic Development Authority financial scandal.

He then added observations about one of the FY 2021 budget plan’s most controversial re-organizational aspects, Tourism marketing.

“The interim manager has criticized staff and said they are not ‘AGILE or NIMBLE’ enough to manage tourism, but offered no definitive evidence to support such a conclusion. I believe many with government experience would attest that Tourism is exactly what should not be conducted by an outside, disconnected entity,” Kushner said reflecting early feedback from a number of town business owners involved in catering at least in part, to a tourist clientele.

Immediate Terminations

Of the five staff terminations, including three department heads, two of whom are directly or indirectly involved in tourism and downtown redevelopment, that were implemented on January 29, five days before the budget plan was presented to the mayor and council, Kushner noted Tederick’s public comments indicating those terminations were NOT performance-related, but rather an immediate effort to cut the Town’s operational budget.

“Such actions without a well thought out plan to address the immediate responsibilities they worked on raises questions and demonstrates a clear management failure. This is especially true for tourism whose most significant period begins in only a few months,” Kushner observed.

This point seemed borne out by the confusion expressed two days later by members of the Town-County Joint Tourism Advisory Board concerning what the Town’s intentions are toward tourism promotion and a financial commitment to it at their Wednesday, February 12 meeting at Town Hall.

On Feb. 12, the Town-County Joint Tourism Advisory Board, comprised largely of community business owners and managers, was operating in a vacuum of information from the town government on a radical overhaul related to tourism marketing, current and future funding commitments, and outsourcing plans.

It was a meeting as previously reported by Royal Examiner, that the interim town manager was aware of but chose not to attend despite its close proximity to his office. Of course, with his council-endorsed terminations of the Town’s Community Development-Tourism Director, Planning Director and Town Engineer, not to mention Council Clerk and Planning Department Technician, Tederick has been a busy man lately. So busy, in fact, that he has written a request for an assistant town manager into his budget proposal.

Previous discussion has indicated that in the past the Town Engineer has generally filled the role of an operational assistant to the town manager; and that when discussion of the position last arose during Joe Waltz’s tenure as town manager, Waltz opted to go with a Town Engineer, a position filled until January 29 by Robert Brown.

Waltz informed the council of his resignation as town manager, effective November 8, on October 9, about five months after the council appointed Tederick interim mayor. While we have not been able to contact Waltz since his departure, at least three people close to Town Hall have speculated that Waltz’s resignation may have reflected disagreement with the termination and downsizing plan now being implemented by his successor, with the town council’s blessing.

At the time Waltz simply said he wished to return to the energy sector where he started out, taking a job with an energy cooperative in Ohio to do so.

Former Town Manager Joe Waltz on the job in June 2017 while still sporting the title ‘Interim’, as his successor will for his entire term.

Conflicts of Interest?

Before concluding, Kushner did flirt with topics that would lead to some of the more pointedly personal critiques to come concerning potential conflicts of interest between the departmental downsizing plan, perhaps reflected in previous initiatives brought forward and seemingly supported by Tederick during his interim tenures at Town Hall.

Kushner pointed to Tederick’s efforts:

1 – on behalf of what he called “a radical change” in the Town’s water policy that would have added private-sector residential development as a mandated reason for the Town to expand its water-sewer utility beyond the town limits onto County land;

2 – an alleged failure to disclose what Kushner termed Tederick’s “personal relationship with the Crooked Run West property owner” who was seeking that central Town water-sewer for north corridor residential development; and

3 – what Kushner called a related failure of the interim town manager to disclose his presidency of “an LLC involving real estate development”; among a few others.

As noted in our first story on the February 10 meeting, Tederick and council defender Amber Poe Morris described the interim town manager and fellow Warren County Republican Committee officer as becoming “the Trump of Front Royal” due to the number of conspiracy theories and allegations of such potential conflicts of interest made during his interim tenures with the town government beginning in late May.

Current Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick fields questions from citizen prior to convening of the February 10 Town Council meeting at which 24 members of the public addressed the Town downsizing plan: 20 against, 2 for, and 2 in the middle.

Ultimate Responsibility, Promises & Gambles

However, Kushner concluded by laying responsibility, not at Tederick’s doorstep, but rather that of his bosses on the Town Council.

“I can’t imagine that the interim manager’s efforts are without Council approval or guidance, so this rests solely on your plate. While the interim manager’s actions may have been well-intended, the public is neither satisfied with his results nor his style,” Kushner said.

Included in that style, drawing additional criticism from the evening’s first public speaker, was what appears to be another joint interim town manager-council initiative – “promotion of an adversarial relationship on EDA issues, rather than pursuing a cooperative approach”.

Several council comments on this front referenced “promises” made by former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald concerning 1.5% interest rates tied to a New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) program that the Town’s Police Department construction project did not qualify for, and which nothing in writing has ever been produced by the Town in support of its rising damage claims against the EDA. In fact, in early 2018 the NMTC Program’s administrator, People Inc.’s Brain Phipps, advised the council to take a guaranteed 30-year, bank-offered 2.65% interest rate on the FRPD construction project because the Town would be competing for limited funds with multiple municipalities.

It was advice mirroring that of the Town’s own staff, Town Manager Waltz and Finance Director B. J. Wilson. But perhaps mirroring McDonald’s admitted propensity for the Charles Town slot machines, council decided to GAMBLE on “McDonald promises” and a nine-year interest-free payback period that the new FRPD headquarters did not even qualify for as a non-job creating municipal project.

Above, former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald celebrating what she told Royal Examiner in early 2018 were a majority of winning days at Charles Town’s casino slots; below, Jacob Meza was a prime advocate of not taking staff and NMTC administrator advice on private-sector financing and a fixed 30-year 2.65% interest rate for the FRPD construction project – ‘Jennifer promised us an NMTC 1.5% interest rate’ appears to be the rationale for that decision; as well as a basis for the Town’s refusal to pay an $8.3 million debt to the EDA on principal payments on the police station FRPD is currently housed in.

Kushner concluded his remarks pointedly at the council, “Many think this is all a done deal, but I sincerely hope that’s not the case. Council’s responsibility is to REPRESENT the people, rather than just GOVERN them. It is imperative that their opinions be solicited, heard and addressed.”

Not only Kushner’s but following public comments indicated a growing belief that the plan emanating from the interim town manager’s office has been vetted and fully supported by the town council.

In fact, the council’s collective response, including an impassioned one from Gary Gillespie, did nothing to dispel that perception. See Royal Examiner’s linked videos for those defenses of the town downsizing plan, as well as other public comments to the council. Additional exploration of that heavy majority critical comment will be forthcoming in a related story.



Tederick, council defend budget plan, staff terminations in face of pointed public criticism

Town-County Tourism Advisory Board moves forward in a vacuum of information on Town plans

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Local Government

Warren County budget process continues with requests from County Departments and Constitutional Officers: Building Inspections, Circuit Court, Commissioner of the Revenue

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Building Official David Beahm presents his budget request to the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors held their second budget work session regarding the FY 2020-2021 budget on Tuesday, February 11, 2020. In this meeting, the Board of Supervisors heard from County Departments and Constitutional Offices. All members of the Board of Supervisors were present for this second meeting. County Administrator Doug Stanley and Assistant County Administrator Bob Childress also attended this second meeting.

In part 6, Stanley gave a brief overview before the first request from Northwest Community Services presented their budget request, followed by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

Now in part 7, the Building Inspections/Permits, the 26th District Circuit Court and the Commissioner of the Revenue present their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

It’s interesting to hear the discussion and see the detail of what it takes to put a budget together. It’s a slow and long process, but necessary.

Royal Examiner will follow the budget process and you can watch on these exclusive videos.

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Upcoming Events

Feb
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1:30 pm Service of Christian & Racial Unity @ Church of the Rock
Service of Christian & Racial Unity @ Church of the Rock
Feb 16 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Service of Christian & Racial Unity @ Church of the Rock
Service of Christian & Racial Unity – “Power of Love in Warren County” Sunday, February 16th, 3:30pm (community meal served at 1:30pm) Sponsored by: FRWC Ministerial Association
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8:30 am Bring a Friend to School Day & O... @ Wakefield Country Day School
Bring a Friend to School Day & O... @ Wakefield Country Day School
Feb 17 @ 8:30 am – 4:00 pm
Bring a Friend to School Day & Open House @ Wakefield Country Day School
Come visit Wakefield Country Day School for our Open House/Bring a Friend to School Day. For the entire school day, students may bring a friend with them to school. Parents may join in on the[...]
10:00 am R-MA February Open House @ Randolph-Macon Academy
R-MA February Open House @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Feb 17 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
R-MA February Open House @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy invites you to come discover what “The Power of Rise” can do for your child at the next open house on Monday, February 17th. Tours begin promptly at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.[...]
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18
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4:30 pm Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 18 @ 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Novel Ideas @ Samuels Public Library
Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! Tuesday, February 4 – Children will explore popular books and book series through S.T.E.M. activities, games, food, and more! After[...]
Feb
19
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8:45 am Reaching Out Now Career Day @ Skyline Middle School
Reaching Out Now Career Day @ Skyline Middle School
Feb 19 @ 8:45 am – 2:30 pm
Reaching Out Now Career Day @ Skyline Middle School
Reaching Out Now (RON) together with Skyline Middle School to host its 1st annual Career Day, “Passport to Success.” Joining with area business leaders, Warren County Public School, as we come together to empower our[...]
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 19 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, January 29 and Thursday, January 30: Puppies are cuddly! Puppies are cute! Our stories, songs, and craft will be about our friends, the puppies! Siblings[...]
Feb
20
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10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 20 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, January 29 and Thursday, January 30: Puppies are cuddly! Puppies are cute! Our stories, songs, and craft will be about our friends, the puppies! Siblings[...]
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21
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9:00 am Entrepreneurship Workshop @ Luray-Page County Center
Entrepreneurship Workshop @ Luray-Page County Center
Feb 21 @ 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Entrepreneurship Workshop @ Luray-Page County Center
Are you considering independent, corporate, or social entrepreneurship, or being groomed to take over a family business? Then, this workshop is for you! Topics to be covered: Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur The Importance of[...]
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22
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11:00 am Art Stars @ Samuels Public Library
Art Stars @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 22 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Art Stars @ Samuels Public Library
Art Stars is a special needs art discovery program. This program is for ages 8 and up. Registration begins January 22. Participants should have a caregiver or attendant present in the program.
1:00 pm Moving Mindfully: Finding and ke... @ Ruby Yoga
Moving Mindfully: Finding and ke... @ Ruby Yoga
Feb 22 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Moving Mindfully: Finding and keeping your footing @ Ruby Yoga
Join Ruby Yoga and Deborah Romero of Optimal Posture LLC for a series of workshops on moving more mindfully through life using the principles of yoga and the Alexander Technique. Slated for Saturday, Jan. 25,[...]