In front of an overwhelming presence of its police force – a few of whom left (at least from view) after acknowledgement of recent departmental promotions – the Front Royal Town Council propelled forward construction of a new Front Royal Police headquarters Tuesday night, October 10.
Two votes passed by 5-1 margins, the first updating the amount committed to the project through the New Market Tax Credit Program; the second accepting a low bid of $7,736,001 (at least there wasn’t pocket change involved this time) for construction of a new headquarters on Kendrick Lane. The accepted bid came from Dustin Construction of Ijamsville, Md.
Only Vice-Mayor Eugene Tewalt opposed acceptance of the financing program and the $7.7-million construction bid. Tewalt restated his concerns about the ongoing positive impact of the tax credit program and the potential tax burden to fund construction on town taxpayers.
Tewalt tempered his opposition, stating he supported the police and knows they need a new and expanded headquarters. However, he restated his opposition to construction costs $1.7 million to $2.7 million above initial construction cost estimates given council over the past year-plus the project has been discussed.
“I know we can do better,” Tewalt told his colleagues of the projected costs of somewhere between $10-million with the tax credit program and $15-million without it within the structure of the 20-year bond issue anticipated to pay for the station.
Supporters of the project and its cost variables also elaborated that the approved two-building design is now anticipated to carry the department 40 years into the future without further expansion needs, rather than the 25 years initially forecast.
The first vote approved an increase from $9-million to $11-million committed to the project through the New Market Tax Credit Program. The staff summary of the change leading to a new resolution of support noted that as much as $12-million could be committed to the project through the program administered by the town-county Economic Development Authority. Reference our attempt to understand and explain the financial dynamics of the New Market Tax Credit Program in this recently published story see previous story.
Undercut in the construction bidding were two familiar names for local projects – Lantz ($7,775,000) and Howard Shockey & Sons ($7,840,000), both of Winchester. The fourth bid came from Keller Brothers of Mount Airy, Md. ($8,215,000).
FR-WC EDA moves to guarantee records protection during transition to County IT oversight, goes to Closed Session on litigation, business matters
The Front Royal-Warren County EDA held a special meeting on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, at 3:00 PM at the EDA Office on Kendrick Lane. All five Board members, legal counsel, and the County Director of Economic Development were present.
The meeting began with the discussion of moving the February Regular Meeting from Friday, February 24, to Tuesday, February 28 at 8:00 AM. The schedule change was unanimously approved.
Following the schedule discussion, the Board requested legal counsel to draft an agreement to protect EDA records in order to move forward with the information technology transition with the County.
The Board concluded the meeting with a closed session to discuss potential disposition of real property to business prospects, the small business loan committee applications, and legal consultation regarding active litigation. There was no new business following the closed session.
As noted above, the next regular monthly Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, at 8:00 AM at the Warren County Government Center.
County overseen FR-WC EDA reviews Conservancy Park status, Small Business Loan Committee applications, future property marketing options
The Front Royal Warren County EDA held its monthly meeting on Friday, January 27, 2023, at 8:00 AM at the Warren County Government Center. Four Board members, legal counsel, and the County Director of Economic Development were present. Chairman Jeff Browne participated remotely.
The regular meeting began with a discussion regarding a potential utility easement through the EDA’s Happy Creek Technology Park property to a neighboring parcel. The proposed development is in its early stages although the utilities could create a loop through the business park while also accommodating any potential future development on adjacent properties. The Board of Directors has concerns with any easements that may encumber any EDA owned property, however, they are open to future discussions if it can create an overall cohesive development area.
As part of the Committee Reports, Jorie Martin and Joe Petty provided an update regarding the Avtex Conservancy Property and recent presentations to the Board of Supervisors and Town Council. Mrs. Martin mentioned the interest in issuing an RFI (Request For Information) for the remaining property, and a work session may be scheduled to review the document.
Treasurer, Jim Wolfe, and the Director of Economic Development Joe Petty provided an update on the financial statements and the Board of Supervisors will soon begin having meetings regarding the Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget.
Staff from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) provided a presentation regarding the Virginia Business Ready Site Program (VBRSP) and ways the EDA can position its available properties. The discussion gave the Board better insight into the types of businesses interested in locating in Virginia and types of assets they look for in property.
The FR-WC EDA is still looking for applicants to take part in the Small Business Loan Committee. The EDA approved four (4) certificates of satisfactions for previous loans that have been successfully paid off. The Board also approved two amendments to existing leases for C-CAP and the Happy Creek Technology Park Grazing Lease.
The Board concluded the meeting with a closed session to discuss potential disposition of real property to business prospects, the small business loan committee applications, and legal consultation. No new business followed the closed session.
The next regular monthly Board meeting will be held on Friday, February 24, 2023, at 8:00 AM at the Warren County Government Center.
By 3-2 vote Town Council votes to seek additional information on Holloway alley ‘vacation’ request
Following a public hearing at its meeting of January 23rd, a divided Front Royal Town Council voted to appoint ostensibly neutral “viewers” with experience with vacating public alleys to visit and examine a Town alleyway members of former Mayor Chris Holloway’s family are seeking for “vacation” – no, not to sunnier shores, but rather into the ownership hands of Mr. and Mrs. William (father of Chris) Holloway and Mr. and Mrs. Wade (brother of Chris) Holloway – for their personal use.
Council’s 3-2 vote, Skip Rogers and Bruce Rappaport dissenting, to seek more information from “neutral” observers came after hearing from eight citizens during the public hearing. And if not neutral, those town citizen stakeholders opposing the requested privatization of the Town alleyway into the two Holloway families’ hands did bring their own histories of alleyway usage and maintenance to the table.
Seven of eight speakers, either residents whose home properties abut the alley or members of the Church of the Brethren, which also abuts the alley, all urged denial of the request so as not to limit their use of and rear-access to their properties and homes from the alley between 12th and 13th Streets off of Virginia Avenue. On the church side, use of the alley to facilitate emergency evacuations of as many as 70 to 80 members, were an emergency to occur during Sunday services, was noted.
The only public hearing speaker for the proposed vacation to the Holloway family was Joe Silek Jr., the applicant’s legal representative. The applicants themselves did not address council at the public hearing. Silek told council that his clients had been “taking care of the alley for years.” However, one Church of the Brethren member, Lee Keeler, noted that the church had contracted Lee’s Lawn Care for mowing the dirt and grass alleyway, and other neighboring property owners noted their own activities in maintaining the alley for ease of access to their properties for moving heavy materials or furniture through closer rear entrances.
One neighboring speaker, Wayne Woodward, said he liked the Holloways but was against privatizing the alley for their personal use. He said he asked Wade Holloway if it was really necessary and why they were asking to transfer ownership of the long publicly accessible Town-owned alley to themselves. “Because we can,” Woodward reported of the recent mayor’s brother’s reply. Chris Holloway left office at the turn of the year after deciding not to run for re-election last year. His previous year-plus in office had been marked by public debate following staff revelations that he and fired former Town Manager Steven Hicks appeared to use their respective offices to pressure Town Planning Department personnel into hurried, out-of-process approval of non-code compliant permitting of a six-unit residential building project of the mayor’s construction company near South Street in town.
The reason a council majority felt the need for additional information than that gathered from staff, involved citizens, and the applicant prior to a vote of approval or denial was addressed by Amber Morris, who, after some discussion with Town Attorney George Sonnett, made the motion to seek more information prior to a vote.
After noting options to approve or deny the project directly following the public hearing, Morris said, “And then the third motion, which is the motion I made, which allows us to appoint viewers that have experience in vacating alleyways. We do have feedback from town staff regarding utilities and things of that nature, and we do have feedback from adjoining property owners and some of the stakeholders in that area. And so the motion that I’ve proposed would allow an unbiased presentation and report of factual information about vacating this alleyway.”
How that “unbiased” report will be weighed by council against the subjective explanations of neighboring property owners and church member stakeholders heard at the public hearings as to the reasons for their opposition based on long-time use of the public right-of-way remains to be seen. But from their pre-vote remarks, it appeared Rogers and Rappaport were both ready to cast votes of denial of the request that evening.
“I’d really like council to consider who is benefiting from vacating the property,” Councilman Rogers said preceding the vote, noting a definite benefit to the applicants.
However, he added, “Who is not benefiting from the property vacating are those folks who have been using that property, that right of way if you will, for many, many years. So, I ask council to consider that as well,” Rogers concluded.
Rappaport followed Rogers comments from a similar perspective: “The alley has been as it is for 28 years, that’s been made clear. I believe that the alley should remain open for public use. It’s clear that the church has said that they use it, and they maintain it as well as the applicant Holloway. And I just have a problem with the vacation process when it’s clear that there are, even though it’s clear that many of the (church) members don’t live next door, they still have a right as users of the alleyway. And I think it would be best to leave it open,” Rappaport said in joining Rogers in favor of a vote to deny with the information council already had.
Click here to see the public hearing and subsequent council discussion beginning at the 38-minute mark of the Town video; Mayor Cockrell calls for a vote on the motion to hire neutral viewers to develop a report on the alley vacation application at the 1:16:15 video mark.
Town Police Chief Magalis acknowledges departmental personnel movement and promotions accomplished in-house
At the January 23rd Front Royal Town Council meeting, Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis introduced officers recently promoted in the department and others recently brought on board. Near the meeting’s outset (beginning at the 6:30 mark of the Town video below), Chief Magalis brought six of seven FRPD officers forward for acknowledgment. Now-Major Jason Ryman was not present for the presentation.
“I always look forward to this type of a presentation where we can talk about some new folks that we’ve brought on and folks that we’re moving into different areas of the department,” the chief told Mayor Cockrell and council in opening his presentation.
Magalis noted the recent retirement of Major Kevin Nicewarner at the outset of the new year, whom Chief Magalis noted was “Florida” and “Gulf Coast bound” after nearly 30 years with the department, in explaining the personnel juggling involving incumbent officers Captain Brian Whited, Sergeant Tony Clingerman, Corporal Michael Gallagher, and Major Jason Ryman.
Chief Magalis then introduced recent departmental additions (from right to left in photo and Town video) Jacob Dodson, and Richard Williamson, both on patrol duty since September, and Jack Weaver, a Front Royal native who transferred to FRPD from the Winchester Police Department.
The chief then segued back to his departmental veterans (again right to left in photo and video) Corporal Michael Gallagher (promoted from Master Police Officer), Sergeant Tony Clingerman (promoted from Corporal), and Captain Brian Whited (from Sergeant), and the absent Major Jason Ryman (from Operations Captain). Chief Magalis noted that now-Captain Whited would take over Logistics Captain duties as Captain Crystal Cline, who had previously handled those duties, moved to Operations.
“So, quite a bit of movement, we’ve got some new faces, and I’m happy to report at this time,” the chief said with a nod to Town Manager Joe Waltz, the Human Resources Department, and council, “We’re actually fully staffed” whispering the last two words, observing that, “Right now, and I’m proud to say it because there isn’t a whole lot of law enforcement agencies that are operating with a full enforcement staff. And right now,” the chief added knocking on the wooden podium, “we are.”
He noted a vacancy in communications but concluded, “We’re very happy where we’ve been able to bring recruitment and retention to. And that’s something we’re going to talk to you guys about as we keep trying to move that forward … so we can continue to attract qualified people like these gentlemen here and retain all that institutional knowledge instead of letting them walk out the door because we’ve been able to staff this from in house and that’s awesome … I’d just like you to congratulate all these guys for coming on board and doing such a great job,” Chief Magalis concluded, leading to a standing ovation from portions of the crowd and council dais.
Council upholds BAR denial of demolition permit for portions of old ‘Murphy Theater building’ in Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District
After hearing from SEESUU LLC applicant Gary Wayland (1:18:48 linked video mark) and his real estate agent Bill Barnett (1:29:22 mark), as well as three other public hearing speakers reiterating points made by 14 speakers at the December 13th Board of Architectural Review (BAR) public hearing opposing the SEESUU application for a partial demolition permit for the historic “Murphy Theater” building at 131 East Main Street, the Front Royal Town Council unanimously upheld the BAR denial of that application.
Councilwoman Amber Morris offered the motion on the appeal (1:41:03 mark). Citing the record of the BAR public hearing and “additional evidence” her motion was to “… affirm the decision of the Board of Architectural Review, the BAR, denying the issuance of Certificate of Appropriateness on the application submitted by SEESUU LLC to demolish and remove a portion of a contributing structure on a property located at 131 East Main Street …” Morris’s motion was seconded by Vice-Mayor Wayne Sealock, leading to the unanimous vote upholding the BAR denial.
Addressing council on reasons to uphold the BAR denial were David Silek (1:21:00), a family member of past owners of the property; Ellen Aders (1:26:50), a neighboring resident, business and property owner; and James Smithlin (1:35:10), who offered observations on the historic nature of the terra cotta portion of the old theater building “made before talking movies” he noted, targeted for demolition. Those speakers, as several council members later would, pointed to the applicant’s lack of structural engineer’s report citing the condition and viability of renovation as opposed to demolition of the old theater and rear residential portions of the building.
“When you buy property in a Historic District it comes with a great responsibility. You’re buying into what is and what will be the story of out town,” Aders began, adding of other Historic District property owners, “To allow demolition of the Murphy Theater would be a punch in the gut to folks like the Poes, who are bringing life back to the old Warren Paint & Supply building; the Barnharts, who searched tirelessly for just the right stone for the Weaver building’s facade, and the Capital Gate,” Aders said of the group she pointed out is bringing the Afton Inn back to usability, among other Historic District property owners, “who take great pride in maintaining their little piece of Front Royal’s history.”
Aders then referenced the BAR public hearing at which she also spoke, pointing to a reluctance by the applicant to provide sought-after information. “If you watched the BAR public hearing you saw a total unwillingness on the part of the owner of the Murphy Theater. He denied the BAR access to the interior; he denied the request for a structural engineer’s survey; he refused to provide a cost analysis of restoration versus demolition and new construction.”
Aders also pointed to occupied apartments and daily meetings held “like clockwork” in the targeted portions of the building. Just because the owner is unwilling to restore the building, doesn’t mean that it’s ready to be torn down,” Aders concluded in urging council to reject the denial appeal.
Following SEESUU real estate representative Barnett to the podium, Smithlin opened by noting online research indicating terra cotta as “the oldest building material known to man”. Noting a personal 31-year history of meetings in the building, Smithlin said, “I’ve never seen a piece of tile or a whole tile fall.” While citing great respect for both the applicant and his real estate agent, he noted, “That building is over a hundred years old and is part of Front Royal’s Historic District. It would be tragic to tear it down, rather than restore it. As he closed he noted the Murphy Theater dated to “before they had talking movies” in urging council not to overturn the BAR demolition denial.
“I’m here to do something good for the town, that’s my intent and that’s really all I have to say,” Wayland told council in opening the public hearing when called to the podium by the mayor. He noted that the email he had sent to the town manager for distribution to council prior to the meeting was his intended “for the record” statement for the appeal hearing.
After introducing himself as a real estate agent with a track record of restoration projects in downtown Front Royal, including “seven on Chester Street when it was one of the most run-down streets in the town” Barnett attempted to tie the SEESUU plans for the Murphy Theater building, including 40 or more “dwelling units” too small to be termed apartments by town code, to that track record. Pointing to the 40 x 40, 75-foot tall tower section of the terra cotta, theater/stage portion of the building, Barnett said that it, “Is totally functionally obsolete. There is no commercial or residential use that you can apply to this property today. The challenge of it is to find a way to put this property back into use, so it’s producing taxes and jobs and places for people to work and to live.”
But if the applicant and his agent were selling the SEESUU partial demolition and rebuild project as a positive for the historic downtown community, neither the public nor council was buying.
On the council side, the reviews of the demolition proposal and subsequent rebuild weren’t too positive. Addressing the applicant, Councilman Skip Rogers (1:48:16 mark) pointed to the period architectures involved in, not only the targeted building, but the Historic District in general. “We love the architecture, we love the feel, we love the comments of the folks that come into our community and appreciate how beautiful it is, what a feel you get when you go into the downtown area. So, my one concern, sir, is the impact that demolition would have,” Rogers paused, then referenced what he had seen in renderings of the reconstruction proposal.
“When I looked at that rendering I honestly thought of a contemporary prison, a very stark, almost aluminum-appearing structure, bright and shiny and static. And that in itself was enough for me to say this is not the way I believe our community needs to grow.”
Having made the motion to uphold the BAR denial, Councilwoman Morris cited her family history in the community and its ties to the historic memory of the community (1:45:46 mark), stating, “I really care about the preservation of the Historic District and I do have a vision for Front Royal. And unfortunately, and I mentioned this in the work session,” she said of comments on ownership in the Historic District, continuing, “and other people have touched on this – when you purchase a building of this magnitude with these plans in place, you know these costs and these things are going to arise. It’s a property owner’s responsibilities. And with that being said, with the current rendering we’d be foolish as a council … to approve this without a vision of what we intend to see moving forward.”
Morris also addressed the by-right aspect of denial after an unsuccessful year of attempting to sell a building denied demolition in the Historic District raised at earlier work session discussion. She reasoned that offered at a reasonably assessed value to parties interested in Historic ownership and restoration as the applicable town code indicates should be done, it would likely find a buyer.
And if Rogers had compared the rebuild renderings to a prison, Morris was perhaps gentler in her assessment – “The current rendering looks like something, I know some people have mentioned Georgetown, for me it looks like something I’d find in Miami. And it’s not the vision I have for Front Royal or our Historic Downtown that we all know and love.”
Supervisors hold initial third monthly meeting to deal with Short-Term Rental-fueled increase in public hearing numbers
On January 24, at 6 p.m., the Warren County Board of Supervisors held their newly added third meeting to deal with the influx of public hearings, largely driven by Short-Term “Tourist” Rental permitting applications. Nine of the 14 public hearings that night were on Short-Term Rental applications. These Public Hearing-driven meetings will be a regular part of the supervisor’s schedule moving forward.
But prior to getting down to scheduled business, Board Chairman Vicky Cook acknowledged the passing of Company 8 District Fire & Rescue Chief Homer Cross the previous day, asking those listening to remember “his family, his friends, and his colleagues in your thoughts and prayers during this time of heartache.”
Below is a list of the 14 January 24th public hearings topics with the staffer’s name and position presenting the item and the board’s action on them:
C. Public Hearings (unless otherwise indicated there were no public hearing speakers):
1. Ordinance to Amend and Re-Ordain Section 160-62 of the Warren County Code – Caitlin Jordan, Senior Assistant County Attorney – Result: On a motion by Walt Mabe, seconded by Cheryl Cullers, the proposed Ordinance Amendment was approved by 4-0 vote, Delores Oates absent due to illness according to the chair.
2. Sale of County-Owned Real Property Located at 30 East Jackson Street – Alisa Scott, Finance Director – Result: On a motion by Jay Butler, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the sale at a price of $200,000 to TCG Real Estate Holdings LLC was approved by a 4-0 vote.
3. Modification Request for Conditional Use Permit 97-11-01, Alan Munson for Commercial Campground, Canoeing, Boating (kayaking and inner-tubing) and Fishing Equipment Rental and Sales Located at 192 Panhandle Road and Identified on Tax Map 34 as Lot 3B – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the CUP Modification request was approved by a 4-0 vote.
4. Modification Request for Conditional Use Permit 2015-01-01, Gillian Greenfield & Richard Butcher for Private Use Camping (Non-Commercial) Located off Beech Road and Identified on Tax Map 13C, Section 1, Block 1, as Lot 206 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from four public hearing speakers, including applicant Gillian Greenfield, two Shenandoah Shores residents opposing the private use application, and a SSPOA official who sought tabling of the matter to resolve legal oversight authority questions, on a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board voted 4-0 to table the matter to acquire additional information to be discussed at a February work session before returning to the board for a vote.
5. Conditional Use Permit 2022-10-02, Maura & Daan De Raedt for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 54 Arrowood Road and Identified on Tax Map 23A, Section 1, Block 4, Lot 1 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from applicant, Reston resident Daan De Taedt, and an adjoining neighbor asking for denial of the application by absentee owners, the board on a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, voted 4-0 to deny the CUP application.
6. Conditional Use Permit 2022-10-03, Wendy C. Willis for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 154 Woodthrush Way and Identified on Tax Map 24D, Section 11, Block 00, Lot 1012 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.
7. Conditional Use Permit 2022-10-04, Anthony Constable for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 195 Old Oak Lane and Identified on Tax Map 15E, Section 2, Block 2, Lot 628 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.
8. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-01, Jacob Horowitz for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 5433 Gooney Manor Loop and Identified on Tax Map 44 as Lot 18 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.
9. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-02, Jeffrey May for Gunsmithing Services Located at 425 Valley Road and Identified on Tax Map 30C, Section 1, Block 2, Lot 19 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Mr. Butler, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.
10. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-03, Lydia Freeman for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 400 Chipmunk Trail Lane and Identified on Tax Map 24A, Section 210, Lot 420 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from one nearby neighbor in opposition to the application, on a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 3-1 vote, Mr. Butler dissenting.
11. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-04, Sergiu Luca for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 104 Marino Lane and Identified on Tax Map 15D, Section 2, Block 5, Lot 128A – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from one adjacent neighbor in support of the CUP application, on a motion by Mr. Mabe, seconded by Mr. Butler, the board approved the application by a 4-0 vote.
12. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-05, Stacy Weng for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 5 Oakwood Drive and Identified on Tax Map 13C, Section 1, Block B, Lot 10A – Matt Wendling, Planning Director – Result: On a motion by Mr. Butler, seconded by Ms. Cullers, the board approved the CUP application by a 4-0 vote.
13. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-06, Matthew Williams & Jay Gilbert for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 1862 Khyber Pass Road and Identified on Tax Map 23A, Section 321, Lot 1A – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: On a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the board approved the CUP application by a 3-1 vote, Mr. Butler dissenting.
14. Conditional Use Permit 2022-11-07, Matthew Williams & Jay Gilbert for a Short-Term Tourist Rental Located at 1424 Khyber Pass Road and Identified on Tax Map 23A, Section 935, Lot 28 – Chase Lenz, Zoning Administrator – Result: After hearing from applicant Matthew Williams, on a motion by Ms. Cullers, seconded by Mr. Mabe, the board approved the CUP application by a 3-1 vote, Mr. Butler completing a trifecta of “No” votes on Short-Term-Rental CUP applications in Skyline Estates, these last two and an earlier one by the De Raedts in which his colleagues joined him in denying the application.
Their business completed, the chairman adjourned the meeting at 7:48 p.m.