EDA in Focus
Town amends civil suit against EDA, McDonald to over $20 million
On Friday, March 13, legal counsel for the Town of Front Royal filed its amended civil complaint against the Town and County Economic Development Authority and the EDA’s former executive director and her two real estate companies, Da Boyz and MoveOn8.
It remains to be seen which way the traditional Friday the 13th bad luck will eventually fall legally in what has now grown from a $2-million precautionary civil litigation to what nearly 600 legal paragraphs contained in the 83-page amended complaint explains is now “not less than” a $20.22 million claim for damages by the Town of Front Royal.
With 39 additional pages of supporting documentation surrounding the 2014 Town transfer of ownership of the Afton Inn to the EDA for marketing for redevelopment – the Town also wants the Afton shell back free and clear – and its 10-page “Prayer for Relief” summary claim of the alleged financial damage suffered by the Town during the EDA Executive Directorship of Jennifer McDonald, it was a total of 132 pages of occasionally dizzying legalese dropped on the Warren County Courthouse and the EDA’s counsel and board of directors today.
The Town is seeking a civil jury trial to determine the validity of its claims.
The Town’s counsel – the amended complaint is co-signed by Town Attorney Doug Napier and Anthony and David Damiani of the contracted Damiani & Damiani Alexandria law firm – cites negligence by the EDA Board of Directors in its lack of oversight of then EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald; accuses the EDA Board of “unlawfully vesting in McDonald all of the power and authority granted to the EDA” by state code thereby causing “the Town to suffer economic harm and damages exceeding $20 million and damage to its reputation.”
Afton Inn claims
On the Afton Inn front, the Town alleges a violation of the 2014 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Town and EDA on the ownership transfer for marketing and development purposes.
“Pursuant to the Memorandum Agreement, any lease, agreement to sell, or agreement concerning the future use of the Afton Inn Property was expressly subject to the Town’s review and written authorization.
“The EDA breached the Memorandum Agreement by failing to submit the Afton Inn Development Agreement to the Town for review and written authorization and accordingly, the Afton Inn Development Agreement has no legal force or effect or validity as it pertains to the Town,” paragraphs 462-463 read, leading to the plaintiff’s conclusion regarding that development agreement between the EDA and 2 East Main Street LLC that, “Any funds spent or debts incurred as a result of the Afton Inn Development Agreement are the sole debts of the EDA, and the Town has no legal or moral obligation to satisfy those debts,” the plaintiff states, adding that were there to be any Town liability ruled, “then the Defendants are jointly and severally liable to the Town for breach of contract in the number of funds expended, which is $357,044.”
Following the assertion of an invalid development agreement, the amended complaint continues that “in the alternative” to a breach of contract ruling, “the Town is a third-party beneficiary of the Afton Inn Development Agreement, and is entitled to specific performance of that agreement. If the EDA is unable to perform with respect to the Afton Inn Development Agreement, then the Town is entitled to have the title of the Afton Inn transferred to the Town.”
As previously reported by the Royal Examiner, due in large part to the EDA’s current financial situation and approaching insolvency fueled in part by the Town’s refusal to pay what has been called “an undisputed $8.4-million principal debt” to the EDA on construction of the new Town Police headquarters, the Afton Inn redevelopment project has been stalled since last spring when the EDA civil litigation against McDonald et al was filed.
The town council and staff have been behind closed session doors recently with 2 East Main Street LLC representatives. And Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick referred to 2 East Main Street LLC as the owner of the Afton Inn during a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Committee meeting of March 3.
The Town amended complaint’s references to McDonald often assume her guilt on the 34 financial felony fraud and embezzlement indictments she has been served with since the EDA filed its $21.3 million civil litigation against her and what has climbed to 13 co-defendants since March 26, 2019.
“At all times relevant hereto, McDonald was acting within the course and scope of her employment as Executive Director of the EDA and her malfeasance was committed while conducting the business of the EDA.
“The EDA is vicariously liable to the Town for the fraud, deceit, conversion, and embezzlement of McDonald under the theory of respondeat superior,” the amended complaint states.
The Town’s amended complaint also accuses the EDA of “Unconstitutional Taxation” in justifying its “not less than $20,226,153” claim.
“Article I, Section 6 of the Virginia Constitution states in relevant part “that all men … cannot be taxed … without their own consent or that of their representatives duly elected ….” the complaint reads on page 80, leading to page 81 observation that, “The EDA’s actions resulted in an unauthorized tax on the citizens of the Town and County. Therefore such tax is unconstitutional and invalid and has caused the Town and the Towns’ taxpayers damages in excess of $20 million.”
In the succeeding and final allegation of the amended complaint the EDA is accused of “Unlawful Eminent Domain”.
“The Defendants, by their actions aforesaid, have condemned and exercised the power of eminent domain over the property of the Town and the Town’s taxpayers.
“The Defendants do not have the power of condemnation and eminent domain.
“The Defendants actions, in condemning the property of the Town and the Town’s taxpayers, is unlawful and unconstitutional, and has caused the Town and the Town’s taxpayers damages in excess of $20 million.”
Those “actions aforesaid” appear to reference the preceding 79 pages description of specific actions cited in the EDA’s civil litigation against multiple defendants, and the criminal allegations primarily against McDonald.
Front Royal-Warren County EDA gears up for its Open-Door Business Session: An opportunity to shape Warren County’s future
In an effort to foster regional economic growth, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) has announced its next Open-Door Business Session. The event is scheduled for Thursday, June 1, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Warren County Community Center, located at 538 Villa Ave, Front Royal, VA 22630. This event is a part of the EDA’s continuous initiative to strengthen Warren County’s workforce development and enhance the economic prosperity of the region.
The two-hour session will be packed with presentations, open discussions, and plenty of networking opportunities. The main focus of the event will be the exploration of Warren County’s workforce development prospects, overcoming related challenges, and celebrating its successes in economic development. Participants will have a chance to engage in meaningful discussions and network with key players influencing Warren County’s economic landscape.
While pre-registration for the session is not compulsory, the organizers have encouraged interested parties to RSVP by Tuesday, May 30, ensuring they don’t miss out on this influential meeting. Those interested can register via the provided link.
The Front Royal-Warren County EDA is known for its commitment to fostering an environment conducive to economic growth. Hosting these Open-Door Business Sessions, they provide a platform where individuals, businesses, and community members can discuss and strategize on various economic development issues, paving the way for a more prosperous Warren County.
Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with the local community, network with important stakeholders, and directly contribute to the future of Warren County’s economy.
For more information on the event and registration details, visit the REGISTRATION LINK.
EDA in Focus
Front Royal-Warren County EDA holds productive monthly meeting with updates on financial statements and new business
The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority held its monthly meeting on Friday, April 28, 2023, and all seven board members, legal counsel, and the County Director of Economic Development were present. Board Member Bruce Townshend participated remotely. The meeting started with committee reports, and Board Chair Scott Jenkins provided updates on recent meetings and the Avtex Conservancy Property progress.
The Treasurer, Jim Wolfe, and the Director of Economic Development, Joe Petty, gave an update on the EDA financial statements, and Mr. Wolfe provided a review of the recent kick-off meeting for the Small Business Loan Committee and proposed next steps for the committee. The next Open-Door Business Session, which is rescheduled to June 1, will focus on the workforce, with more details to come.
Under new business, Mr. Petty provided an update on the draft EDA & County MOU, which updates the existing fiscal agent agreement to include current and future operational support between the two organizations. The board then held a closed session to discuss the potential disposition of real property to business prospects and legal consultation on active litigation.
Following the closed session, the board approved two motions. The first granted permission for Laurel Ridge Community College to temporarily utilize the parking lot on Kendrick Lane for their CDL class from May 15 to June 30. The second motion asked the County to perform appraisals on EDA-owned properties at 1321 Happy Creek Road and Stephens Industrial Park.
The next regular monthly board meeting will be held on Friday, May 19, 2023, at 8:30 am, at the Warren County Government Center. The meeting was a productive one with important updates on committee reports, financial statements, and new business. The board’s approval of motions to grant permission for Laurel Ridge Community College and perform appraisals on EDA-owned properties demonstrate the board’s commitment to improving economic development in the area. The upcoming Open-Door Business Session in June will also provide opportunities for members of the community to learn about the board’s efforts to improve workforce development.
EDA in Focus
Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority launches USDA Rural Development Loan Program to boost small business growth
On Tuesday, April 25, 2023, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s Small Business Loan Committee held an informational work session at the Warren County Government Center Caucus Room. The meeting aimed to introduce committee members to each other and to provide an overview of the USDA Rural Development Loan Programs. These programs offer low-interest (1 percent) loans to local lenders who then re-lend to businesses in rural communities in order to improve economic conditions and create jobs. The Loan Committee discussed the next steps during the meeting, including applications, outreach, and review processes.
To qualify for the program, intermediary lenders can be nonprofit corporations, public agencies, cooperatives, and federally-recognized tribes, while individuals, public or private organizations, or other legal entities can apply for intermediary loans as “ultimate recipients” provided they meet certain criteria, such as being U.S. citizens or permanent residents, not owing a delinquent debt to the U.S. Government, and not being able to obtain affordable commercial financing elsewhere. The project must also be located in an eligible rural area, and the applicant must have no influence, legal or financial interest in the work of the intermediary lender.
The Front Royal-Warren County EDA will administer a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to provide financial incentives for the expansion of existing local industries or commercial business ventures and for the attraction of new industries or commercial business ventures to Warren County. The RLF will be utilized to ensure that a maximum number of jobs will be created and retained, the local and regional industrial base is broadened, and the Warren County property tax base is broadened. In reviewing the employment impact of the proposed loan, priority will be given to those projects which create (and in some cases retain) jobs that pay a minimum of 1.5 times the federal minimum wage.
Eligible activities include site purchases of industrial land, relocation costs incurred in construction and occupancy of the facility, new construction or rehabilitation of existing buildings, machinery and equipment acquisitions, start-up operating costs, and working capital (capped at 25 percent of total project cost). Eligible applicants are industrial or manufacturing firms where goods are assembled, re-assembled, modified, manufactured, or produced at the job site, wholesale and distribution enterprises, and commercial enterprises that establish new businesses, expand existing businesses, create new jobs or save existing jobs.
Local businesses can benefit from this program as it offers low-interest loans to intermediary lenders who then re-lend to businesses in rural communities. This can help to improve economic conditions and create jobs, while the RLF provides financial incentives for the expansion of existing local industries or commercial business ventures and for the attraction of new industries or commercial business ventures to Warren County.
Watch the meeting on the exclusive Royal Examiner video.
EDA in Focus
Newly aligned County EDA Asset Committee views a path forward at Avtex site among other business recruitment options
The newly aligned County-overseen Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Asset Committee sat down to establish an overview of the work ahead at a committee meeting officially convened at 3:10 p.m. Thursday afternoon, April 20. Present were the full committee lineup of Jori Martin and new board and committee members Hayden Ashworth and Rob McDougall, along with Warren County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty. Martin chaired the meeting.
Following a 20-minute open meeting during which jump-starting the long-dormant development of the 148-acre Avtex/Royal Phoenix business park site, along with development of the larger Conservancy Park area between the business park and Shenandoah River, was a primary topic of conversation, the board adjourned to Closed/Executive Session. The motion into closed session indicated behind-closed-door: “Discussion of disposition of publicly held real property … at Stephens Industrial Park, 1321 Happy Creek Rd., and 400 Kendrick Lane … and legal advice related thereto …”
As it was a committee meeting without the full board, no action or announcements out of closed session were anticipated. However, with concerns expressed by former EDA board Chairman Jeff Browne and former Asset Committee Chairman Greg Harold concerning possible pressure from the board of supervisors in an election year to unload EDA properties to what might not be the best long-term prospects in order to show some immediate EDA revenue recovery, it will be interesting to see how this topic proceeds toward full EDA board consideration and potential action. Browne and Harold’s terms, which expired February 28, were not renewed by the supervisors despite both applying for reappointment.
Did not seeing eye to eye with supervisors on property sales priorities lead to replacement of two longest-tenured EDA board members?
Dynamics of the two-pronged Avtex properties redevelopment included the possible transfer of ownership of the Conservancy Park property inside the town limits to the County to enable Parks & Recreation Department maintenance and oversight. Having the Town on board with plans for the Conservancy Park area which will connect various in-town locations to foot and non-motorized transportation trails was cited. Also how that transfer of ownership would impact the County financially, and its Parks & Rec Department work and personnel-wise, was broached.
Martin also pointed out to her new colleagues that for the most part, related infrastructure at the Avtex site to support development was in place. “So, it would be being able to support these trade sectors that are listed, which is kind of right following the goals that we were looking at as we review the RFI (Request For Information),” Martin said regarding EDA marketing strategies moving forward. “I would suggest that we make it an agenda item for the main (EDA board) meeting, that we put it as a formal item on the agenda and focus on what’s been sent as the draft RFI. It has been reviewed by our attorney. And it has been reviewed by the prior EDA board. And what I’d look for from our next committee meeting that we could come out of that meeting and get a full board vote on support to move this RFI forward.
“And the process of that before it went out would be to get on the agenda for the Town and the County as well, so that they would review the RFI — they would have input into it as well. And then at that point, once all parties weigh in, we would at that point hopefully by June or July, send that RFI out to prospective companies that may want to get a vision plan and development plan for the Avtex site. That’s kind of what I’ve been working on before, the committee had been working on before you came on the board. And that’s where we are,” Martin said in bringing her new colleagues up to date on development prospects, particularly at the long-floundering former federal Superfund and Avtex property redevelopment site.
In addition to the “Avtex Redevelopment Site Review”, topics broached in open Asset Committee meeting prior to the closed session included “GO Virginia Grant Opportunities” and a “FR-WC EDA Property Overview”. Martin cited the EDA’s eligibility for grant opportunities due to meeting certain criteria, calling it a “wonderful opportunity” for redevelopment funding assistance at the former Avtex property site, and the recruitment of new business to the community there or elsewhere.
The now fully-manned, seven-member EDA Board of Directors will have its regular monthly meeting this coming Friday morning, April 28, at 8 a.m. at the Warren County Government Center.
EDA in Focus
Warren County Economic Development Authority’s regular meeting agenda revealed for April 28, 2023
The Warren County Government Center’s Caucus Room will be hosting a regular meeting of the Warren County Economic Development Authority on April 28, 2023, at 8:00 am. The meeting is set to commence with a call to order, followed by the adoption of the agenda and approval of the minutes from the previous meeting held on March 25, 2023.
The meeting will then proceed with reports from various committees, including the Executive Committee, Asset Committee, Finance Committee/Budget Update, Board Members Updates, and Warren County Director of Economic Development Update.
The meeting will also feature new business items that include an open-door business session for June, a County Payment Memo, and an EDA & County MOU. The closed session that will follow at 9:00 am will focus on four matters and two matters, where discussions will involve the disposition of publicly held real property and consultation with legal counsel pertaining to actual or probable litigation.
Any additional new business will be discussed before the meeting concludes with an adjournment at 10:00 am. Stay tuned for updates on the outcomes of the Warren County Economic Development Authority’s meeting.
EDA in Focus
FR-WC Economic Development Authority Small Business Loan Committee to hold first meeting: Learn about USDA Rural Development Loan Programs
The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA) has announced that its Small Business Loan Committee will be holding its first meeting on Tuesday, April 25th, at 2:00 pm in the Warren County Government Center’s Caucus Room. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the committee to get acquainted with each other and learn about the USDA Rural Development Loan Programs. The agenda for the meeting and reference materials from previous years are available for those interested in attending online, and a Teams link will be provided for this purpose.
Some of the FR-WC EDA Board of Directors will also be present at the meeting, and they will be available for discussion and to answer any questions that attendees may have. This meeting is an excellent opportunity for small business owners in the Front Royal-Warren County area to learn about the available loan programs and how they can benefit from them.
The agenda for the meeting includes a call to order at 2:00 pm, followed by welcome and introductions. The committee will receive an overview of the existing loan program and hear from the USDA Rural Development at 2:30 pm. The meeting will then move on to discuss the next steps, including applications, outreach, and the review process. The meeting will conclude at 4:00 pm with a discussion of upcoming meetings.
Small businesses in the Front Royal-Warren County area are encouraged to attend the meeting, as it presents a unique opportunity to learn about the loan programs available to them. The FR-WC EDA is committed to promoting economic development in the area, and this meeting is just one way they are fulfilling that commitment.
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