Seven members of the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms (POSF), including three newer ones, made their case that they are not crooks, thieves or otherwise scheming and conniving people out to self-enrich or fleece the residents of the sprawling Sanitary District during a lengthy work session of the Warren County Board of Supervisors Tuesday evening, October 27th.
The two-hour-and-forty-minute explanation and defense of their management and advisory role to the supervisors came in response to a recent escalation in criticism of their role. That escalation has primarily come from Nancy Winn and her husband, Dale Orlowske, most recently at the October 20th supervisors’ meeting.
Perhaps surprisingly, none of the four primary critics cited, though not by name, by those involved in the POSF’s work, or any other Farms residents were present for Tuesday’s explanation of the POSF side of the story. That was particularly surprising to this reporter whose paper received an inquiry from Winn following her public presentation targeting POSF and the supervisor’s oversight at last week’s board meeting, requesting information on the meetings whereabouts, time, and format for public participation.
In response to her query wondering if it was a “secretive meeting” which would not allow Farms “taxpayers to be present”, following a quick call to the County Administration Office to acquire the requested information, this reporter/editor informed her by email of the time, whereabouts and formatting of the meeting, including Board Chairman Mabe’s prerogative to grant observing members of the public input to the meeting.
POSF Co-Chairman Ralph Rinaldi introduced the voluntary property owners association representatives present to the supervisors, excluding the absent Tony Carter, and outlined the areas each would be addressing. Those representatives were in the order of speaking: Joe Longo (History of the Farms including a video presentation of that history), Bruce Boyle (Financial Overview), Jonathan Oaks (Misconceptions, Main Points, Current Allegations), Sara Saber (Excessive Spending due to multiple FOIA requests), Patrick Skelley (BOS involvement, guidance and communications, and Sanitary District size and population variables). POSF Office Manager Lisa Blansett was also present to respond to inquiries on documentation, at least one of which she provided for copying to the supervisors during the work session. Rinaldi and others responded to questions as they arose during and after their presentations.
Noting the complicated nature of the POSF relationship to Sanitary District management and finances – it was pointed out there were multiple accounts some containing public county funds and others POSF-raised money, each spent on different things they said – the group complemented the board’s three new members for their tackling of the issues brought to them.
“It is confusing, it took me a few years to figure it out … and you’ve only been here 10 months,” Rinaldi told the board’s new majority of Chairman Walt Mabe, Vice-Chair Cheryl Cullers, and North River representative Delores Oates.
Addressing the POSF and Sanitary District finances, Boyle, who noted he was a newer member of the board like Oaks and Saber, said he had been pleased to find out that the financial organization made it difficult for anyone to misappropriate money.
“I don’t want to be confrontational and I don’t want to challenge you, but if you believe the money is not being spent where it’s supposed to be spent, we would as a board wholeheartedly like you to appoint someone to investigate NOW – and not over a course of a couple of years. We have nothing to hide,” Boyle told the supervisors, adding, “The Sanitary District money is money we’ve agreed to tax ourselves to improve our community with your oversight. And we have been doing that.”
Speaking to past County oversight of Sanitary District operations, Boyle noted that when he became involved, “All my questions were answered by Bob Childress at my first meeting before I had a chance to speak … This is one of the best-run counties in Virginia,” he asserted. Childress is the recently retired Deputy County Administrator and Sanitary District manager.
Perhaps ironically, part of the Farms Historical video presentation as part of Joe Longo’s opening overview contained interview excerpts with former County Administrator Doug Stanley, who appointed Childress to oversee the Farms Sanitary District among others, operations. After over 20 years in his position, Stanley reached an involuntary termination agreement with the County under the impetus of the board’s new majority elected in November 2019 under a wave of public and social media criticism of “business as usual” due to the EDA financial scandal. Childress retired shortly after Stanley’s departure and long-time County Emergency Services Director Richard Mabie, also interviewed in the video, soon announced his pending retirement in coming months when he reaches retirement age.
So, as a new board majority orients itself to its job the County is losing a huge amount of staff institutional knowledge of operations on a variety of fronts, including Sanitary Districts.
Cullers, who with Oates and Mabe has been at the point of seeking answers to questions raised by POSF/Sanitary District management critics, noted that the supervisors were obligated to answer questions from all segments of county citizens. She suggested POSF officials sit down with those critics to reach a mutually beneficial line of communication to reach a satisfactory end for all involved.
“But you’re expecting a rational response and we’re not getting that,” Boyle replied of past POSF efforts to respond to certain critics. “Okay, we are potentially explaining what’s going on correctly and legally and trying to inform you all as well. But I think, politely, I don’t think that I’m going to be able to get through to them because I don’t think they want to hear any of the answers that are correct. So, at that point we just thought, we’re hoping you all would mitigate that for us.”
At another point, following Rinaldi’s comments on negative perceptions being raised by critics on social media over specific matters POSF officials insisted they have tried to respond to, to little impact with those critics, Boyle rose to add a further observation.
“Here’s some of what we deal with on a fictitious (level) – ‘We’d like to see your credit card statement.’ Well, we don’t have any credit cards to give you any statements. Okay, then what goes on social media is ‘They refuse to give us credit card statements’ which is a true statement which can imply that you’re hiding money. But if you have no credit cards, you cannot provide a credit card statement.”
Of the POSF impression of a belligerent unwillingness to communicate in good faith to reach answers being sought by their critics, Boyle said, “Be careful, because what you’re hearing … that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Sometimes where there’s smoke there is fire. And also sometimes people blow smoke at you … We invite you to go through our finances with a fine-tooth comb.”
Mabe responded that he had been the one to comment at a previous meeting that “Where there’s smoke, there’s potential fire” adding however that from his perspective an inquiry offers the POSF the opportunity “to prove there’s not (fire) – that’s what we’re asking here … There is no witch hunt here – there is an opportunity for questions we have to be answered in a logical manner that we understand so we can, in turn, get some of the people that are the ‘witch hunters’ off of your back and our back.
“If there’s a problem, we’ll probably be able to solve it and we’ll fix it, we’ll move forward; we’ll do the best that we can. But perception is 95% of the room. So, it works both ways,” Mabe told POSF officials of the move toward the board’s inquiry into the Sanitary District operations.
And on the perception front, several POSF officials pointed to a social media co-opting of online domain names similar to the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms title, making it increasingly difficult to search and find the actual POSF site. One said they believed it to be a “malicious” effort to co-opt online hits and information dissemination from the POSF.
Shortly after those observations, Board Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi told those present she had created a direct link to the POSF site <shenandoahfarms.org> from the County website as a means to help solve that access confusion.
See these discussions, questions, and explanations along with a historical look at the “Farms”, including its founding; somewhat suspicious past behaviors of a potentially criminal nature; road inaccessibility and emergency service and law enforcement access issues with what now stands as one of Virginia’s largest Sanitary Districts at 5,000 residents, 2,804 lots, 1,783 of those developed, and 42-plus miles of roads, in this Royal Examiner video:
After work session discussion of Town building permit function, supervisors approve 3 CUP requests, 2 for short-term tourist rentals
The Warren County Board of Supervisors agenda of Tuesday, January 18, began with a no cameras, caucus room work session highlighted by a presentation by County Building Official David Beahm on implications of the Town of Front Royal taking over the building and maintenance inspection function within town limits. It is a long-discussed on the Town side shift, that began in the first decade of the 21st century if memory serves. But after hearing about constantly shifting variables on interpretation and enforcement of stormwater management and erosion and sediment control aspects at the state level, one might wonder if the Town might want to reconsider its decision to finally move into the in-town inspection world.
“That’s ridiculous,” North River Supervisor Delores Oates chimed in with a colorful declaration after hearing Beahm’s description of ongoing shifts in State interpretations of its own rules on parameters of municipal enforcement of state rules on these aspects of building variables. Responding to questions, Town Planning Director Lauren Kopishke estimated full town inspection department enforcement, including stormwater and erosion and sediment control by June. The Town department was officially enacted on January 3rd. Dynamics of in-town inspection records being shifted to Town control from the County system was discussed, as was alerting in-town property owners to seek those records from the Town when they were transferred.
County Finance Director Matt Robertson also presented a look at new online links to a budget development site for easier member and staff access during the budget cycle.
Following those two presentations the supervisor adjourned to closed session for discussion of advisory board appointments and real estate transactions outside the town limits.
Then it was on to a rather straightforward regular meeting agenda featuring three public hearings on Conditional Use Permit (CUP) requests, one for a guesthouse off Buck Mountain Road in the South River District’s Stone Subdivision by Joshua Branson, and two for short-term tourist rentals on Riverview Shores Drive in the Shenandoah Shores Subdivision.
The first of those latter two was submitted by experienced and multi-county short-term, Air B&B style rental operators Gillian Greenfield and Richard Butcher; the second by a property neighbor of Greenfield and Butcher, Terry Hartson. Hartson told the board that he had taken his business management plan lead from his more experienced neighbors. Hartson spoke in support of his neighbors’ request, as they did in support of his. With acknowledgment the Branson guesthouse would not be used as a commercial endeavor, and detailed management plans for the two short-term rental requests in place, all three were approved by unanimous consent with little or no opposition submitted to the board prior to the public hearing.
About five minutes into the meeting during Public Comments the Town’s recent “interim man” returned to the dais to play word games to repeat still-unsubstantiated accusations against County and Town officials, as well as gripes about the Royal Examiner and its reporters not covering “news” as he desires it to be covered – apparently unsubstantiated, without first-hand verification, and without an objectively critical eye toward the documented actions of public officials, particularly within Town Hall.
See the above discussions, public comments, as well as board member reports, and approval of a four-item Consent Agenda, including more coyote bounty awards, and discussion of a removed consent agenda staffing search item, and two late agenda additions in this County video:
‘Grandfathering’ or not? County Planning Commission foresees the need to address Non-Conforming Properties
At its regular meeting on January 12, the Warren County Planning Commission confronted a nagging issue that members expect will increasingly come up in the future, that of property owners in older subdivisions whose dwellings were built long before there were local zoning ordinances or even building inspections. Even though building codes date back to the Babylonian King Hammurabi, and rudimentary standards in the late 18th century, most large American cities didn’t begin enacting or enforcing them until 1900 or so, and in most smaller localities they were not widely enacted until the 1970’s, and even after that not uniformly enforced. In Warren County, for example, many small “summer cabins” were built near or on the river in the 1940’s or before, when that requirement did not exist. They weren’t originally intended to be permanent homes, but rather vacation places. In modern times, local zoning ordinances would preclude many of these from being built at all, or certainly sited where they are.
The continuing challenge for the County is to strike a balance between a property owner’s investment in his property, the need for uniform enforcement of the building code, and common sense. More and more requests for Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) for short-term tourist rentals, for example, show that property owners, sometimes with “nonconforming lots”, still want to rent their cabins out to tourists. But the standards of the County’s short-term tourist rental ordinance require things like 100-foot distance between dwellings. So, the commissioners spent some time discussing what the right approach to that challenge is. Zoning law is where the term “grandfathering” is often found – provisions that allow some deviations from standards where the original construction predated the standard. It’s certain that the commission and the county board will have to eventually develop a solution that can be applied fairly and uniformly.
An example case will likely be considered at next months meeting, when the commissioners will be looking at a request from Alvand Khoshgavar for a CUP for a short-term tourist rental for his residentially zoned property at 668 Old Dam Road in the Shenandoah District. His property doesn’t meet the 100-foot setback requirement, so that requirement would have to be waived for a permit to be issued. The request was approved for advertising the public hearing, but the commissioners agreed that the topic of these properties will need to have a better solution. The County can waive provisions of an ordinance, but every waiver creates a precedent.
Meanwhile, this month, John LaVoie is requesting a CUP for his residentially zoned property at 1196 Old Oak Lane in the Shenandoah District. Deputy Planning Director Matt Wendling briefed the commission on the details of the application. The proposal meets the County short-term rental supplementary regulations, and comments were received from the County Building Official and the Department of Health. There were no citizen comments during the public hearing, and no comments or objections were received from neighboring property owners by the County Planning Department.
With no other comments by commission members, the vote to recommend approval was unanimous. The permit request will now go to the County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
The consent agenda for the meeting consisted of authorization to advertise public hearings for seven Conditional Use Permit requests and one zoning ordinance change. Those items will be on the agenda for next month’s meeting on February 9th.
Chairman Myers adjourned the meeting at 7:45 p.m.
Town of Front Royal prepares for its 2nd, oh wait – 3rd winter storm of season
On January 14, 2022, the operations team that includes Public Works, Energy, Fleet Management, Finance, and the Police Department met to discuss the upcoming snowstorm forecast to drop from 6 inches to a foot or more of snow here. Public Works crews are treating primary roads now in preparation for the winter storm now predicted to begin around 1 p.m. on Sunday. Road crews and Fleet will begin working 12-hour shifts over the weekend to continue treating streets and plowing snow as needed.
The Police Department is asking citizens to stay off the roads during the storm if possible. Road crews are better able to cover streets with less traffic. The Town is asking residents to use off-street parking this weekend if available.
Town Energy Services crews are prepared and will be working this weekend to cover possible power outages. Power outages after work hours should be reported to Front Royal Police at (540) 635-2111. If you have internet connectivity during working hours, please report outages at frontroyalva.com/FormCenter.
As always in an emergency call 911.
Public Works and Energy Services also have contractors on standby if additional crews are needed.
The Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District is preparing for forecasted snow and some sleet to occur during the daytime on Sunday, January 16, and into overnight hours, ending by early Monday, January 17. VDOT crews began brine operations at 8 a.m. on Friday, January 14 and will conclude this work later in the day.
In the Staunton District, around 900 – 920 pieces of equipment will be deployed for snow removal operations. VDOT crews will be out to plow and treat roads as the winter weather begins. Wreckers will be pre-staged to assist with vehicle removal at traffic crash locations along interstate roads. Tree crews are ready to assist as needed during and after the storm.
Travel during the storm should be avoided and local forecasts should be monitored. Winter weather with wind and snow rates can change quickly, causing dangerous driving conditions and possible white-out situations.
Travelers should be prepared for emergencies. Travel emergency kits can include flashlights and batteries, ice scraper, cell phone and charger, jumper cables, blankets or quilts, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food, abrasive material for traction, and a shovel.
(The Front Royal Public Information Office updated its release on the above preparations to acknowledge this will be the third, rather than second snow of the season to hit the town.)
After lengthy closed session, council ponders its role in regulating short-term-tourist rentals
The Monday evening (Jan. 10) Front Royal Town Council Work Session began with a two-hour-plus Closed Meeting at which first, “probable litigation” involving a claim of damaged private property by unidentified Town operations was discussed; followed by discussion of personnel matters including “… performance, demotion, salaries, disciplining, or resignation of specific public officers, appointees, or employees … specifically of the Town Planning Commission, Town Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Local Board of Building Code Appeals”, as well as a late added “and other personnel”.
As there was no meeting scheduled, no announcement or action followed the closed session.
The open portion of the work secession featured a wide-ranging conversation about establishment of a Town Code on regulating Short-Term Tourist Rentals. Town Planning Director Lauren Kopishke opened by telling council that no one had showed up at a December Planning Commission Public Hearing on the matter, so there was no public input on parameters or preferences to fit town residential patterns interacting with the increasingly popular “quasi-commercial” use of personal residence as a money-making short-term rental endeavor.
After an overview from Kopishke of the draft proposal based on the existing County Code, opinions of elected officials on levels of regulation went in wide and varied directions. Letasha Thompson opened by expressing concern over a requirement that all short-term rental parking be in driveways, and not allowed on streets. – “Some people don’t have driveways” she worried over that segment being prohibited from qualifying for Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) to allow them to profit off renting their properties out.
Kopishke responded that such conditions were included to protect normal neighborhood parking patterns and would ultimately depend on the number of cars short-term rental customers would bring to bear on a location.
Amber Morris wondered if the Town should initiate any regulations on the use, noting that there were statewide codes. “Where in the Town Code are short-term rentals specifically prohibited? Because I have been approached recently that it is not specifically against code. And in the state of Virginia it’s pretty blanketed. And my concern with this is … that we’re kind of going above and beyond and we’re adding unnecessary measures to the entire thing as a whole,” she told the planning director, later wondering why after “10-plus years” of non-enforcement, why start regulating now?
“While it’s not defined in our zoning ordinance – all we have defined are lodging homes. And these do not permit short-term stays under 14 days. So, to allow this we have to at least define it in our ordinance,” Kopishke responded, adding, “The state does permit it, which is why it makes sense for us to adopt something, because the state just defines what it is and explains how they’re going to tax it. It doesn’t explain how to regulate it.”
Morris countered that the draft seemed “a little over-regulated” in its existing form. Planning Director Kopishke noted that with such a broad state code it made sense for each jurisdiction to establish its own regulatory code to accommodate its community structure, so as not to allow a new quasi-business use to disrupt the lifestyle of existing neighborhoods.
“Every jurisdiction has something a little bit different. So, what I took just for simplicity’s sake was Warren County’s because that’s what people around here would be used to. I looked at Strasburg, Strasburg’s just a little bit more complicated – Winchester, Fauquier County, they have more regulation to it. So, this is bare bones,” Kopishke said of the draft structure presented to council for an early review.
“This leaves a lot up to our discretion, right?” Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell observed.
“The way it’s written gives you as council a lot of control. If you want less, we can put less prohibitions in there. It’s how council would like it to be done,” the planning director explained. This led Councilman Joseph McFadden to note that many people who might be attracted to the idea of making money off short-term rentals of their home or other structures might not think through a business plan – “This just gives them something to think about. I think it’s great there are some (guidelines) in here. Like you said, we decomplicated it, uncomplicated it as much as possible, keep it bare bones, I’m all for it,” McFadden said.
However, Morris continued to voice concern over any attempt at regulation, noting that in the absence of a code, a number of town citizens have been operating this type of rental use for a number of years. – “But we haven’t gone after them,” Kopishke noted. She observed that were its council desire, the Town could initiate legal actions to stop those operations until a code is established and permitting obtained. – “It could be considered a Class 3 misdemeanor,” the planning director pointed out, adding that it did not seem a desirable approach to label people “criminals” for pursuing a use in a vacuum of town guidance or regulation.
“That’s not the concern, but the concern is we’ve been doing this for 10-plus years and it hasn’t been enforced, why are we adding new (regulations)?” Morris continued in questioning why bother to regulate now. McFadden responded that some people who would like to initiate such an operation were not because they wanted “to operate within the law”. Establishing legal parameters to protect short-term tourist operations, as well as their neighbors’ interests in a more “bare-boned” manner as described, seemed an optimum path forward, he reasoned.
“I think we should do less regulation,” Morris injected, without explaining what was “less” than the no regulations or enforcement the Town has been operating under.
Among regulations on the table were the necessity of short-term tourist rentals having landline phones to assure the ability to contact emergency services if necessary, limitations on number of rental occupants (two per bedroom), vehicles and parking, and a one-time application fee of $400.
“I look at this as protecting our citizens, the people who live here every day … that their quality of life in their neighborhood, their children, whatever, that it doesn’t affect them because somebody next to them wants to do this,” Vice-Mayor Cockrell observed as the conversation wound down. The entire discussion lasted for nearly 20 minutes (33:50 to 52:00 minute mark of the Town video). As to a path forward, Kopishke told Royal Examiner she would remove the driveway parking restriction and forward the newest draft ordinance to the planning commission for further review and a recommendation on final action to council.
See this discussion, as well as others, including parameters for Vape/Vape Oriented Businesses (following the short-term tourist rental discussion); the Order of Business” at regular council meetings – one proposed switch was having Public Comments on non-agenda items after Public Hearings; two committee appointments; options forward in the employee health care insurance pool; pending Capital Improvement Projects; and a Sole Source Purchase of Neptune Water Meters at a projected cost of $65,523.
Not on the agenda
One other unscheduled item that occurred just before the work session’s convening around 6 p.m. was serving of a no-trespass order on Mayor Holloway by a representative of his Virginia Ave. neighbor Cheryl Langlais. As noted toward the conclusion of Norma Jean Shaw’s story on Holloway’s dog-containment fence construction and permitting issues, Holloway had refused to accept a registered letter serving him with the notice in the wake of his and other social media posts concerning his discontent with his neighbor’s report on his dogs running loose and her in-home business licensing issues.
Warren County Supervisors consider rural events facilities in the South River District with mixed results
The Warren County Board of Supervisors met Wednesday, January 11, to consider four Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) in the South River District. The four applications on the agenda are all related to the proposed uses of agricultural land. Increasing attention to land use in the past 10 years and pressure for more residential housing have meant greater focus on the balance between property rights and community impact. The terms “By Right” and “Permitted Use” mean property owners can do some things with their property with no approvals required, and other uses are subject to “conditional use” permits issued by the “governing body”, in this case, the county supervisors.
Carl and Jennifer Ey applied for a CUP for a rural events facility on their Agriculturally Zoned acreage at 1406 Panhandle Road in Bentonville. The County Planning Commission had previously recommended approval of the permit, and the Eys are experienced, small rural venue operators. Deputy Planning Director Matt Wendling briefed the Supervisors that the County Building Official, Health Department, and Virginia Department of Transportation had provided comments on the proposal. The Department of Conservation and Recreation – Andy Guest State Park had also requested in writing that the facility observe the same quiet hours as the park facility, so the conditions of the permit were modified to require that events hosted at the site should end at 10 p.m.
Supervisor Vicky Cook asked the applicant if he anticipated having to accommodate large vehicles such as buses for the events, given the narrow road leading to the site. The applicant responded that he would be happy to accommodate a prohibition on buses if that was the intent of the board, and that should the expected number of vehicles at an event be sufficient to warrant, his plan was to have someone to direct traffic to avoid any conflicts.
The public hearing on this request yielded three speakers, two of which were supportive of the permit, and one against; in addition a neighboring landowner had registered his opposition to the site of the facility on the applicant’s property. The applicant had addressed the concerns with the neighbor in writing and with the planning department. Bill Barnett, a local property developer and coincidentally a nearby resident of the property, expressed his strong support for the project. He said as the pressure on landowners increases to more effectively use their acreage, “The easy way out,” is to cut down all the trees, bulldoze it level, and build houses. He commended the applicant for devising a way to preserve the rural character of the area and still share it with the public.
Supervisors asked questions about road access to the facility and whether a nearby archaeological site could be impacted by the planned use. The Planning Department staff indicated this facility was a substantial distance from the Flint Run Archaeological site. VDOT had weighed in with its requirements which also had been addressed by the applicants. The Board then voted unanimously to approve the permit.
The supervisors then turned their attention to a request by Edwin Wright for a CUP for a Commercial Campground on his agriculturally zoned property at 2905 Gooney Manor Loop, again in the South River Magisterial District. Board Chairman Cheryl Cullers cautioned the waiting crowd that disruptions or outbursts were prohibited under the rules of public meetings. In contrast to the previous public hearing, nearly 100 citizens were in attendance to register their opinions about the Gooney Manor proposal.
Deputy Planning Director Wendling informed the Supervisors that the applicant had modified his request to scale the size back from 100 primitive campsites to 50 in deference to the community concerns about traffic to the site. That modification appeared to take the supervisors by surprise, as the application package still indicated the project would provide 100 spaces. Several supervisors asked questions about the reduction in scope – was it a permanent reduction, or would there be a later expansion. The applicant indicated that, depending on the results of the project, the size could be expanded.
Supervisor Walt Mabe expressed concern about the availability of water and power, and Mr. Wright explained that water would be available throughout the site, but power would not be provided to each site, Since there was uncertainty about the types and sizes of camping modes (Tents, Small trailers, etc.) and little detail in the application about the facilities that would be provided, the Supervisors were dubious about the proposal even before the public hearing.
There were 43 speakers present, and according to one of the speakers, Stacey Mikel, over 700 local residents had signed an online petition opposing the permit. The complaints followed a familiar theme:
• The roads were inadequate to support the additional traffic
• Campers would likely create fire hazards in a heavily wooded area adjacent to a national park
• Cell service in the area is inadequate so emergency 911 calls might not work
• Access by fire/EMS could be restricted by road blockage
• Fire/EMS staff is already inadequate
• Alcohol-related incidents are likely
• “Visitors don’t care about the community”
• Trash dumping
• Some don’t trust the applicant
• Lack of applicant’s experience managing a campground.
• Concerns about trespassing, firearms, or personal safety of neighboring residents
After almost two hours of always civil, if opposing public comment, William Barnett addressed the Supervisors again: “If you disapprove this, you should never, ever approve another campground unless it fronts on State Routes 340 or 522,” Barnett asserted. Supervisor Cook then introduced a motion to deny the permit, seconded by Supervisor Mabe. The vote was unanimous and there was a sigh of relief in the room.
The Supervisors then took up the next CUP request by Edwin Wright for a Rural Events Facility at the same address. Many of the same residents rose to oppose the permit and echo the same complaints. It was clear that opposition to the rural events facility was at least as strong as that for the campground. Supervisors asked about the size of events that the applicant expected to host, such as concerts or gatherings. The answer was that the expectation was that groups and concerts would not exceed 200 people.
Mr. Barnett again rose to support the request and compared this Rural Events Facility development to the one that had earlier been unanimously approved. “People who attend these events expect them to be in rural areas with small roads.” The last to make a public comment was Phillip Vaught, a local innkeeper, and investor, in support of the proposal. He told the supervisors that the great danger for a property of this type is that landowners with agricultural property have the right to divide their property and it was easy to envision 100 houses or even more on that property, without a hearing of any kind.
At the conclusion of the public comment period, Chairman Cullers in whose district the Wright proposals lie, then spoke. “I have gone out there and measured this road, and I am familiar with it.”
Her concern about the permit was safety. “Safety is the issue,” she said. A motion to deny the permit request was made by Supervisor Mabe and seconded by Supervisor Butler. The vote was again unanimous to deny.
There was a brief discussion about the remaining two Conditional Use Permit requests by Mr. Wright for a Campground and a Rural Events Facility on an adjoining property. Mr. Wright announced to the Board that he was withdrawing those requests to research and reevaluate his plans. He expected it to be several months before he was ready for the next steps.
In light of the withdrawal, Chairman Cullers adjourned the meeting at 10:30 p.m.
Town announces ‘plans’ to appoint out-of-area Interim Town Attorney
In a press release, late Tuesday afternoon the Town of Front Royal’s Richmond-based Public Information contractor Joanne Williams of Williams Media issued a press release announcing the Town’s “plans” to appoint an interim town attorney. No timing on the actual appointment was included in the release naming James E. Cornwell, Jr. of White Stone, Virginia, as that planned appointee.
White Stone is a small, coastal town at the mouth of the Rappahannock River near its entry point into the Chesapeake Bay in Lancaster County. An online search indicated White Stone’s population at 352 in the 2010 census and 327 in the 2020 census.
However, Stone’s legal experience is somewhat broader than his hometown’s population, cited at “over 45 years of active practice representing local Virginia governments, public bodies, and authorities”. If our count was right, there were 24 counties, public bodies, and authorities that Stone has represented over his legal career. And if we were to guess based on his experience in the legal field, we’d say his age, while not stated, is not far from the 70 of the recently “retired” man he is replacing on an interim basis.
That lengthy legal experience will provide the background for duties cited as “providing daily advice on internal, administrative and management matters, specific personnel matters, preparing ordinances, contracts and other documents for adoption or approval, interpreting state and federal laws and regulations, and advising the Town on practices and procedures.”
If recent events and closed session agendas are an indicator, interpreting regulations regarding state codes as they might conflict with a local charter or code as to personnel matters, for instance regarding planning commissions among others, may be put to the test early in his tenure, whenever it begins.
See the Town release in its entirety below:
Front Royal Plans to Appoint Interim Town Attorney
Front Royal Town Counsel plans to appoint James E. Cornwell, Jr. from White Stone, Virginia as the interim Town attorney. Mr. Cornwell has over 45 years of active practice representing local Virginia governments, public bodies, and authorities.
Cornwell’s vast experience in local government includes providing legal services for: Town of Narrows; Town of Glen Lyn; Giles County School Board; Giles County Department of Social Services; Dinwiddie County; Bland County; New Kent County; Craig County, Brunswick County; Lancaster County; Grayson County; City of Galax; Carroll County; Floyd County; Town of Clarksville; Page County; New River Valley Regional Jail; Pepper’s Ferry Regional Wastewater Treatment Authority; Carroll Grayson Galax Regional Solid Waste Authority; Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority; Roanoke-Alleghany Regional Commission; New River Valley Regional Commission; Virginia First Regional Industrial Facility Authority, and Carroll Grayson Galax Regional Industrial Facility Authority.
“Mr. Cornwell’s extensive legal knowledge and experience in local government is needed in Front Royal as the Town develops new strategic and comprehensive plans, updates zoning and code compliance ordinances and launches the Economic Development Authority,” said Mayor Chris Holloway. “He understands and is an expert on navigating local government processes and regulations within mandate policies from Virginia and the federal government.”
During his years in practice, Mr. Cornwell has provided counsel to many authorities and entities including EDA, IDA, Water and Sewer, and the collection of delinquent real estate taxes.
Cornwell’s services to Front Royal will include providing daily advice on internal, administrative and management matters, specific personnel matters, preparing ordinances, contracts and other documents for adoption or approval, interpreting state and federal laws and regulations, and advising the Town on practices and procedures.
Mr. Cornwell has served as Substitute General District and Juvenile Court Judge, 29th Virginia Judicial Circuit for ten (10) years. He earned a B.A. degree from Campbell College and a J.D. degree from the College of William & Mary.