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Town Talk: A conversation with Lori Oaks, Front Royal Light Fight-Update

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In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Lori Oaks. Lori has started a new community event called ‘Lori Loves Homes Front Royal Light Fight’. If you have ever watched Christmas Vacation, you’ll understand the concept.

This event is open to all Warren County residents. This event blossomed from Lori Oak’s love for her Warren County community and her desire to create an annual event that all could look forward to.

Participating in this event couldn’t be easier! Simply decorate your home with as much Christmas spirit as possible, sign and return your Waiver of Liability, take photos of your home, submit the photos to be entered, and wait until December 31st when our CASH prize winners will be announced. All voting will take place online, and there will be first, second, and third place winnings selected by our judges, as well as a fan favorite selected by… well you!

Judges picks:


  • 1st place – $1,000
  • 2nd place – $500
  • 3rd place – $300
  • Fan favorite – $500

Stay tuned for specific timelines to be announced, more information on our generous sponsors, and other fun community events involving the Front Royal Light Fight! More information on her website.

The Front Royal Light Fight is all made possible by its wonderful sponsors; Green to Ground Electrical, LLC, Compass West Realty, LLC, Royal Examiner, National Media Services, Inc., Clatterbuck Home Inspections, LLC, 3 Dave’s Moving and Storage, The Apple House, Finance of America Mortgage, Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Co., Nicholls Construction, Inc. Quality Title, LLC, and C&C Frozen Treats. All of these businesses are staple parts of this community and bring so much value to our daily lives. Thank you!


Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied, but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com

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Warren Heritage Society host tour of Bel Air Mansion

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The Bel Air Mansion in Front Royal, Virginia. Bel Air is the historic home of Civil War diarist Lucy Buck.

On September 24, 2022, the Warren Heritage Society hosted a tour of the Bel Air Mansion in Front Royal, Virginia. In this exclusive Royal Examiner video, you will hear Maral Kalbian, Architectural Historian, provide some historical remarks on Bel Air and how it has changed over the years. Also, excepts from Luck Buck’s Diary and letters, read by Hallie Groves, President of the WHS Board of Directors. WHS Archivist Tony Carter welcomed the guest and introduced the speakers.

Richard Hoover, a WHS Board member, gives the history of the Warren Heritage Society along with welcoming remarks from Jeff LeHew, the current owner of Bel Air. The Warren Heritage Society wants to thank Lorraine Hulquist, Suzanne Silek, Tom Lockhart, and Hallie Groves for their generosity in helping sponsor this event.

Bel Air Mansion, built in 1795, was home to 19-year-old Lucy Buck, whose detailed diary entries during the war have been invaluable for historians. General Robert E. Lee and his staff stopped here for refreshments on July 22, 1863, as his army retreated from Gettysburg.



In a previous story in the Royal Examiner, you can see many pictures of the interior of Bel Air.

 

 

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School Board again delays action on VSBA items; approves lease for Elements Program

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A new lease to house the Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Elements Program received unanimous approval from the Warren County School Board during its Wednesday, September 21 meeting, and the board received updates on several WCPS items during its coinciding work session.

At the same time, members present to vote during the meeting — School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins — again delayed action on three items related to the board’s potential 2022-2023 membership in the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA).

The VSBA-related items were removed from the agenda prior to the meeting “in order to receive additional information and will be added to the October 5 meeting,” according to the School Board’s revised agenda.

Removal of the three VSBA items — to approve renewal of the board’s VSBA membership; to renew the VSBA Policy Services Agreement; and to select a delegate and alternate delegate to attend the 2022 VSBA Annual Convention — again delays board action initially requested months ago and which continues to lag mainly due to concerns expressed largely by Salins, who objects to the School Board’s membership in the association.


The board members voted 5-0 to approve each of the three other action items on the agenda — including improvements for handicapped accessibility at Skyline High School and a one-year contract for the Schoology learning management system.

WCPS Special Services Director Michael Hirsch

Following a motion by Funk and a second by Salins, the School Board first approved a WCPS lease agreement for the Raymond Santmyers Youth Center for the WCPS Elements Program, which WCPS Special Services Director Michael Hirsch (above) said is a transition program to bridge the gap between high school and adulthood for qualified students with disabilities.

Specifically, Elements is a community-based program for students ages 18 to 22 that focuses on pre-employment, supported employment, and employment strategies, said Hirsch.
“Some students with disabilities don’t have the option to go to college, particularly those with significant cognitive impairments,” Hirsch explained, “so we decided to work with Lord Fairfax Community College and create our own program named Elements.”

Lord Fairfax Community College is now known as Laurel Ridge Community College. Hirsch said the Elements Program was located at the college for years until March 2020 when WCPS had to stop holding its class there. Hirsch said the plan now is to go back to the college with an expanded program that will allow WCPS to serve more students than the nine it currently serves this school year.

“We want to give students who don’t graduate with a standard or advanced diploma the option to stay [in WCPS] until their 22nd birthday,” Hirsch said. “We don’t like to see students sitting in Warren County High School or Skyline High School for eight years in a restrictive setting, so we’re creating options in the community and at the college.”

Until WCPS can hold its Elements class at the college again, Hirsch said the division wanted the community-based program for students with disabilities to continue operations. Warren County stepped up and offered free space at the Santmayer Youth Center to home base the Elements Program. This year’s nine students in the program will go into the community to work in positions with the Town of Front Royal and for all types of local business partners as they “learn how to work competitively,” said Hirsch.

WCPS plans to have two program bases when the college reopens its doors in the spring, Hirsch said. From the college site, students will be able to work a variety of positions, such as in the mail room, in food service, or in the student union, he said, while from the youth center they will be able to work in Front Royal-located positions.

“We love it and we’re very thankful to the County for stepping up and providing this resource to us,” said Hirsch.

With the School Board’s approval of the action item, WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger is now authorized to execute either a lease or a memorandum of agreement with Warren County for the occupancy of a portion of the youth center, which is on East 8th Street in Front Royal.

In other action, the board approved WCPS purchasing the 2022-2023 Schoology learning management system totaling $16,147.17 for use this school year in the elementary schools. WCPS has used the system for the last two years during the pandemic and upon completion of a survey this year decided to continue using it, according to WCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Heather Bragg. The system is used by teachers to communicate with students and parents, among other tasks.

The last action item approved by the School Board regarded a request to install additional curb cuts at the bus loop/parking lot entrance at Skyline High School where a painted pedestrian crosswalk currently exists to increase student and staff safety and to improve handicapped accessibility.

The board approved a contract totaling $19,235.83 that will be awarded to the Gordian Group, which will install the handicapped-accessible curb cuts that will be compliant with federal laws.

Work Session
Among several items discussed during the work session portion of the School Board’s meeting, WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith outlined information related to the planned renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser (LFK) Elementary School.

WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith

The Warren County School Board Building Committee — which also met on Wednesday prior to the School Board’s meeting — worked through value engineering items and looked at identifying additional funding sources for the LFK project.

For example, roughly $245,800 would be available for the LFK project from the WCPS cafeteria fund to use for new appliances and their installation, said Smith, who added that tens of thousands of dollars in project savings also could be derived from modified renovations that would cost less and not detract from the overall project’s scope.

Smith told School Board members that the building committee will have a contract that has been reviewed by the division attorney ready, as well as a presentation for the School Board so that it can possibly take action on it during the board’s October 5 meeting.

Watch the exclusive Royal Examiner video of the entire Warren County School Board Building Committee meeting below.

In another work session item, Superintendent Ballenger reported that there are 5,042 students currently attending WCPS, not including the roughly 173 to 175 students in pre-kindergarten.

Ballenger also pointed out that class sizes are growing at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, which is expected to need five teachers per grade level within the next two years. E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School also may need additional teaching supports, he said.

After discussing some options for providing such additional support — which is needed now to come back from pandemic-related deficits in reading and math in Ressie classrooms — Ballenger said he will present an item for board action on how to do so at its next meeting.

“We are pushing the limits of the number of students per class,” Ballenger told board members, “and we still are having to do a lot of remediation. We want to make sure we’re giving students the best services possible.”

Another work session item that will come up later for School Board action included removing the gender specifications from both the Warren County Educational Foundation Scholarship and the Thompson Scholarship, which are awarded at each WCPS high school to the male and female student with the highest academic GPA who also meet the criteria for the scholarships. The scholarships are usually in the amount of $3,000 each but may be adjusted depending on the amount of money available for distribution.

WCPS would like the School Board to consider making that change to the scholarships’ criteria in order to recognize the two students at each high school with the highest academic GPA, regardless of their gender, said Bragg.

Also, due to increased demands on the WCPS Finance Department, Ballenger said there is a need to add a new position to the department. This work session item also will come up at a future board meeting for consideration.

Warren County School Board Building Committee meeting of September 21, 2022

 

Warren County School Board Meeting/Work Session of September 21, 2022

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Town Planning Commission adds a member, another short-term tourist rental; sees another attempt on Main Street micro-housing on the horizon

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The Front Royal Planning Commission introduced its newest member at its regular meeting on September 21. Daniel Wells joins the commission, replacing retiring former Chairman Douglas Jones, who served on the commission for 15 years. Chairman Daryl Merchant expressed the commission’s appreciation for Mr. Jones’ hard work and long service.

Commissioner Daniel Wells, right, brings the Planning Commission back to full strength as it deals with a Town Comprehensive Plan rewrite and the oncoming wave of short-term tourist rental permit applications.

A consent agenda portending a wave of new short-term tourist rental applications was approved for authorizations to advertise public hearings. The following public hearings would be at the Commission’s regular meeting on October 19:

  • For Doug Ichiuji, a special use permit for a short-term tourist rental at 200 East Main Street in the Historic Overlay District.
  • For Aaron Hike, a special use permit for a short-term tourist rental at 1116 North Royal Avenue in the Entrance Corridor Overlay District.
  • For the Minick Group, LLC, a special use permit for a short-term tourist rental at 206 Lee Street in the Historic Overlay District.

Also on the consent agenda for authorization to advertise was a special use permit for SeeSuu, LLC, to convert an existing commercial structure at 131 E. Main Street in the Historic Overlay District to a greater number of dwelling units up to a height of sixty feet. The project description was very short on details, but the preliminary sketches look similar to proposals floated earlier in the year for a large-scale overhaul of the old Murphy Theater building on East Main Street to create a six-story building with 40 housing units as small as 320 square feet (s.f.), none larger than 640 s.f.


The proposal also states that valet parking will be acquired to meet any needed parking space. The description indicates that the first two stories are potentially retail/commercial spaces.

Regardless of how the project plays out, the conversion of such a prominent building in the Downtown Historic District would have a broad impact on the entire downtown and is certain to attract public feedback.

Vesta Property Management representative Chloe Phillips answers questions from the Town Planning Commission regarding a short-term tourist rental at 30 Fairview Court. After some discussion, the Commission voted 4-1 to recommend approval.

On its action agenda, the commission held a public hearing on a request from Vesta Property Management for a short-term tourist rental at 30 Fairview Court on property zoned Residential One (R-1). The Vesta representative, Chloe Phillips, answered commissioners’ questions. Chairman Merchant asked “for the record” if the rental was going to be owner-occupied. The Chairman has previously voiced his concerns, in particular during the development of the Zoning Ordinance amendment, about non-owner-occupied properties as short-term rentals. The answer was “No.”

Commissioner Gordon noted that the application indicated the applicant intended to rent the whole house, a maximum of six guests, and wondered if the parking would be adequate if the driveway only accommodated two vehicles. There followed a discussion about the language of the ordinance requiring parking “in driveways or other designated areas”. In many neighborhoods, on-street parking is allowed for residents; however, a question remains as to whether on-street parking can be considered a “designated area” for the purpose of short-term rentals. The Vesta representative indicated that the language of the ordinance did lead to confusion about which requirements were applicable to short-term rentals as opposed to bed and breakfast facilities or hotels/motels. Under those sections of the ordinance, owners must provide one parking space per guest room.

After the commissioners had discussed the difficulty of nailing down a specific requirement for parking for short-term tourist rentals, Planning director Lauren Kopishke agreed to take a look at the language of the ordinance to see how it can be made clearer.

On a motion by Commissioner Gordon, seconded by Commissioner Ingram, the Commission voted 4-1 in favor of recommending approval of the application. Chairman Merchant was the dissenting vote. The application will now go to the Town Council for final action.

Chairman Merchant announced that there will be a Civic Pride workshop entitled “Revitalize or Die” sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce on September 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Royal Cinemas on East Main Street. The event will feature consultant Jeff Siegler, and tickets are available at the Chamber office at 201 East 2nd Street.

Planning Director Kopishke gave the commission a summary of Planning Department activities for August – 26 zoning permits, 31 Code Enforcement Cases, seven land use applications, four sign permits, and 22 business licenses. Thirty-four new dwelling permits have been issued so far in 2022.

The meeting adjourned at 7:34 p.m.

 

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Additional Public School Budget requests approved as part of Supervisors Consent Agenda

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At its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 20, the Warren County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a 10-item Consent Agenda that included three appropriation requests from the Warren County Public School system (WCPS). Approval of the requests, including the transfer of $1,500,256 of $5,714,541 already appropriated into the school system’s Fiscal Year-2023 budget into four specific budget categories, comes in the wake of discussion by the Joint Finance Committee recently established to improve communications and the supervisors understanding of the public schools budgetary processes.

And the fact those requests weren’t pulled for additional discussion would seem to indicate that Joint Finance Committee is successfully accomplishing its mission of improved communications between the school administration and the supervisors who control the local portion of the public schools’ operational and capital improvement budgets.

It was an unusually light agenda for the county supervisors on Sept. 20 – What, no lineup of Short-Term Rental CUP request public hearings? The bulk of the 28-minute meeting was the supervisors recounting their various board-related activities in past weeks.

In addition to the above-cited transfer of $1.5-million already appropriated funds into Administration, Attendance, and Health; Pupil Transportation; Operations and Maintenance; and Technology categories, the supervisors approved the transfer of $1,677,113 from the public schools’ FY-2020/21 surplus to three specific uses; and additional appropriations totaling $207,633 from outside funding sources to Operational/Maintenance and Instructional category use.


The outside source revenues included $38,500 from a “recently awarded Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) grant” to Operations and Maintenance that will allow the school division to contract with a third party to create digital maps of each school that can be used by school administrators and first responders in emergency situations. Another $20,000 received “from additional State Medicaid reimbursements” (to Instruction) will be used to provide a $5,000 annual stipend to instructional assistants with an active Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license.”

And a final $149,133 “from a greater-than-anticipated Federal Title VI-B funding” will be divided in the Instruction category: $33,133 to fund one Special Education Instructional Assistant position, with the remaining $116,000 used to cover special education costs for contracted services and instructional supplies.

The transfer of $1,677,113 in surplus funding from the last fiscal year was authorized for use: To the County’s Capital Improvement Fund for School Projects ($1-million); To the County’s Asset Replacement Fund for School Buses ($409,913); And to be retained by the County in the General Fund Contingency Reserves ($267,200).

Other matters included in the Consent Agenda approval were:

“Approval of the FY-2023 Performance Contract with Northwestern Community Services Board” and “Adoption of a Concurring Resolution Regarding a Financing by the Northwestern Community Services Board”;

“Approval of a Transfer Request and Award Notice” to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for four vehicle replacements. The previously awarded contract to Hall Automotive of $164,358.60 was approved, along with the transfer of $1,597.86 from an FY-2023 budget line item. The staff agenda summary also noted a previously authorized funding total of $260,000 for the vehicles and operational accessories, with the final cost of $261,597.86 requiring that late line-item transfer.

“Award for Senior Center Phase 1 Restrooms and Mechanical Renovations” in the amount of $393,300 to Lantz Construction Company of Winchester. The Senior Center is being relocated to the 15th Street Health and Human Services Complex at the old middle school site. The staff agenda summary noted a total project cost estimate of $850,000.

Several personnel matters rounded out the Consent Agenda. They included:

The reappointment of Art Saffelle and Thomas McFadden to the Warren County Board of Building Code Appeals, for four-year terms ending September 30, 2026;

The appointment of Gregory Huson to the Shenandoah District seat on the Warren County Planning Commission to fill the remaining portion of the four-year term of Joe Longo, expiring on December 31, 2023. Longo resigned recently over what he called a lack of transparency from the county government regarding the use of Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District tax revenue he asserted may have been transferred, perhaps illegally, to uses outside the Farms Sanitary District.

And the nomination of Christy McMillin-Goodwin for reappointment to the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging Board of Directors for a four-year term ending September 30, 2026.

Earlier in the meeting, one person appeared to address the board on non-agenda matters during Public Comments. That was Linda McDonough, who was critical of a recent “News Letter” she said had been issued by the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms (POSF) critical of the County’s management of the Farms Sanitary District. And surprise (not really) – long-time POSF critic McDonough berated POSF for the content of its News Letter and lauded the County’s management of the sanitary district.

As County Attorney Jason Ham listens, Deputy County Administrator Taryn Logan stands in for Ed Daley on the County Administrator’s report.

Following board and staff reports and its approval of the Consent Agenda, at 7:28 p.m., the supervisors moved into Executive/Closed Session. The motion to close indicated discussion of EDA legal matters related to “possible liabilities of the EDA, the recovery of EDA funds and assets, and the outstanding indebtedness of the EDA” as well as the dueling litigations initiated by the Front Royal Town Council over lost asset claims. While the County and EDA had a big month of July with civil case rulings in the EDA’s favor for the return of about $15 million in assets and punitive damages, attorneys for all four civil case defendants found liable have filed motions to overturn the jury verdicts, requiring additional legal expenses to counter those filings. There were no announcements or actions out of closed session, and the meeting was adjourned at 8 p.m.

All 28 minutes of the open session, 29 including the reconvening out of the closed session, are available for viewing on County Video.

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Multiple school facilities locked down following active shooter report at Skyline Middle School eventually determined to be hoax

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The Royal Examiner received the following press release from Warren County Public Schools:

Dear parents and guardians, September 19, 2022

Today at approximately 3:00 pm, the Warren County Sheriff’s Department received a call reporting an active shooter at Skyline Middle School. A number of schools were immediately placed on lockdown by the Sheriff’s Department, including Blue Ridge Technical Center, Skyline Middle School, Skyline High School, and E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School.

Officers reported immediately to the impacted schools and quickly conducted campus safety assessments. After an extensive investigation process, the threat was determined by the Sheriff’s Department to be an unfounded report. The lockdown caused a significant delay in student dismissal while we worked with our law enforcement partners to ensure safety. All schools returned to normal operations at approximately 3:45 pm after schools were given the all-clear from the Warren County Sheriff’s Department. We moved to a 4:00 pm release time for all secondary schools. At no time were any students or staff members in danger.


We understand all situations requiring a lockdown are concerning to our parents, students, employees, and to our community. Our students and staff members did an excellent job following safety procedures during the lockdown. We are grateful for our partnership with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Front Royal Police Department, and Warren County Fire and Rescue, who responded today to ensure the safety of our students and staff members.

Thank you for the opportunity you have given us to serve you and your family. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Chris Ballenger, Ed.D.
Superintendent

 

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office posted the following on their Facebook page:

There have been reports of several school districts throughout the Commonwealth regarding active shooter incidents.

One was received by Warren County Communications regarding Skyline Middle School. As of right now, we have NO information that the call to our school (Skyline Middle School) is valid.

Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Front Royal Police Department, and Warren County Fire & Rescue responded, securing all schools in the County to ensure all students and teachers were safe and there, in fact, was no incident.

All schools in Warren County have been released from lockdown. Skyline Middle School was the last to be released.

“Virginia State Police have released that this is the 5th active shooter call in the Commonwealth today. There are two similar calls in Mecklenburg County, one in Culpeper and one in Charlottesville. This call came in from another state.

All schools were placed on lockdown for precaution.” Quote from Shenandoah County Sheriff’s

The call to Warren County Communications also came from an out of State number, and we can provide no additional information. Virginia State Police have been notified of our call. Virginia State Police is working on the incident throughout the Commonwealth.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office released this information:

There have been reports of several school districts throughout the Commonwealth regarding active shooter incidents. One was received by Shenandoah County Communications regarding Strasburg High School. As of right now, we have NO information that the call to our school (Strasburg High School) is valid.

Virginia State Police have released that this is the 5th active shooter call in the Commonwealth today.

There are two similar calls in Mecklenburg County, one in Culpeper and one in Charlottesville. This call came in from another state.

All schools were placed on lockdown for precaution.

 

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County Planning Commission recommends data center zoning ordinance amendment to allow data centers by right in industrial and light industrial zones

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A combined work session/regular meeting of the Warren County Planning Commission was held Wednesday, September 14. The work session consisted mainly of discussing ongoing work on the County’s Comprehensive Plan. Planning Director Matt Wendling provided the commission members with a sheaf of background information, much of it made available from the 2020 Census data, which has begun circulating for Federal, State, and local government agencies to use for planning and decision making.

Some of the statistical data come with a caveat, however. The margin of error for some categories is 10% of the total value with the warning: “Take care with this statistic.” According to the Census data, the county population is just under 41,000 people, almost exactly half of whom are women. The median household income is $70,000. Warren County lags behind the Commonwealth of Virginia median by over $6,000. Census data for the county can be found here.

Still a member short, the Warren County Planning Commission hopes to fill that vacancy before the next meeting.

The commissioners also discussed the increasing number of applications for short-term tourist rentals in the county. The phenomenon is sweeping the country, and Warren County has more than 100 properties either approved or in the approval process. The Royal Examiner has previously reported on this movement. Investors from the Washington D.C. Metro area find the combination of relatively low sales prices, relatively low property taxes, and the area’s natural attractions as advantages of purchasing properties in Warren County and converting them to tourist rentals.


The question is, what are the long-term impacts on the community? Will property prices be driven up? Will vehicle traffic increase? Will working people who want a home to live in be priced out of the market? What about crime? It really is too early to tell, but some facts should be considered. A short-term tourist rental could bring a property owner between $15,000 and $50,000 annually by renting only weekends. As far as traffic is concerned, transportation studies indicate that short-term tourist rentals actually reduce traffic dramatically over full-time occupied dwellings. And in Warren County’s experience, crimes reported related to short-term tourist rentals so far have been limited to one complaint about on-street parking.

Meanwhile, short-term tourist rentals account for .006% of the housing units in Warren County. For decision-makers and county residents, It is worth continuing to watch for signs that the positives of increasing tourism, improved property condition, and tax revenue are not outweighed by the negatives of inflated property prices, reduced availability of housing for residents, or additional burdens on infrastructure.

Planning Director Matt Wendling, left, outlines the Zoning Ordinance Text amendment that has been the subject of much discussion by both County and Town governments regarding permitting Data Centers. To Wendling’s right, Assistant County Attorney Caitlin Jordan keeps everyone on track with the legal parameters of issues.

Immediately following the work session, the 4-member Commission held its regular meeting and began by considering amendments to the County’s Zoning Ordinances, carried over from its August meeting. In previous public hearings, the commission was urged to require a Conditional Use Permit for such uses as Data Centers to ensure a review process and public hearings for each permit application. The Town Zoning Ordinance amendment eventually approved by Town Council did require a Special Use Permit for such development.

However, the County commissioners chose a different approach than the Town in recommending approval of the Zoning Ordinance amendments by inserting language that made Data Centers a by-right use in Light Industrial (LI) and Industrial (I) zones. All development projects will still require zoning permits, building permits, Health Department and environmental clearances, site plan review, and Board of Supervisor approvals, so citizens will still have input opportunities.

In the entrance corridor Overlay District, if the proposed building would exceed 50,000 square feet, the Zoning Ordinance text amendment would still require a Conditional Use Permit and a public hearing for it. Chairman Robert Myers recused himself from the vote citing his involvement with the development of data centers, and Vice-Chairman Hugh Henry called for the vote, which passed by a 3-0 vote, Myers recused, and one seat was still vacant.

The Commission then turned to the advertised public hearings for permit applications:

1. – Gillian Greenfield & Richard Butcher have requested a Conditional Use Permit for a short-term tourist rental for their Residentially zoned (R-1) property at 1164 Riverview Shores Dr. in the Shenandoah Magisterial District. The applicants cited their experience with Short-Term Rentals, owning and managing multiple properties in Winchester City and Frederick, Shenandoah, and Warren Counties. There were no speakers during the public hearing, and on a motion by Vice-Chairman Henry, seconded by Commissioner Richardson, the commission unanimously voted to recommend approval.

2. – Elizabeth A. Saman has applied for a Conditional Use Permit for a Short-Term Tourist Rental at 431 Cindy’s Way. The property is zoned Residential (R-1) and located in the Shenandoah Magisterial District. Planning Director Wendling told the Commission that the property does not meet the setback requirements outlined in the Zoning Ordinance and that a waiver for that would be required. The property is 85 feet from the nearest dwelling rather than the required 100 feet.

The applicant told the Commission that she had purchased the property as a residence but that her father was undergoing cancer treatment in Northern Virginia, requiring her presence there more regularly, so she made the decision to offer it as a short-term rental to help offset expenses. In contrast to the previous application, this public hearing generated five speakers, all of whom were opposed to the short-term rental. Jonathan Lopez cited repeated instances of guests pulling into his driveway confused about which property was their destination. The applicant’s property is in a cul-de-sac. In the end, on a motion by Vice-Chairman Henry and seconded by Commissioner Scott Kersjes, the commission unanimously voted to recommend denial of the application based on the lack of setback distance. Vice Chairman Henry commented, “The ordinance specified the setback requirement for a reason.”

The application will now go to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision.

3. – Stacy L. Lockhart requests a CUP for Private Use Camping (non-commercial). His property is on Harris Drive in the Shenandoah Magisterial District. Planning Director Wendling told the Commission that the applicant was wanting to bring the property within zoning compliance and would be required to maintain the property in compliance with all Health Department requirements, which include storing all associated materials in a neat and orderly fashion, removing them when not in use, obtain building and zoning permits for any development, structure, or fencing, and post the property with a lot or parcel number for Fire/EMS services. The requirements also direct that there be an emergency egress plan for the removal of Recreational Vehicles or portable commodes before any predicted flood event. There was one letter of support from a neighboring property owner and no other public comment, so on a motion by Vice Chairman Henry, seconded by Commissioner Richardson, the commission unanimously voted to recommend approval of the application.

4. – Jaden & Tori Walter – A request for a CUP for a Short-Term Tourist Rental. The property is located at 80 River Oak Drive. The property is zoned Agricultural (A) and located in the South River Magisterial District. Planning Director Wendling told the Commissioners that the applicants had provided all required documents and the property met the Zoning Ordinance setback requirements. There were no speakers at the public hearing, and the Commission voted, on a motion from Vice-Chairman Henry, seconded by Commissioner Kersjes, unanimously to recommend approval.

5. – Vesta Property Management has applied for a CUP on behalf of the property owner, Dori Greco Rutherford, for a Short-Term Tourist Rental at 194 Venus Branch Road. in the Shenandoah Magisterial District. The applicant supplied all required documents, and the property meets the zoning ordinance requirements. There were no speakers for the public hearing, and the commission voted unanimously to recommend approval. The motion was made by Commissioner Richardson, Seconded by Commissioner Kersjes.

6. –Vesta Property Management has also requested a CUP on behalf of owners Chad and Donna Marie Anthony for a Short-Term Tourist Rental at 86 McCoys Ford Road. The property is zoned Agricultural (A) and located in the Fork Magisterial District. The Application package was complete, and the property met all other requirements. There were again no public speakers, so Vice-Chairman Henry offered a motion, seconded by Commissioner Kersjes, and the Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval.

7. – Jeffrey Steven Taylor has applied for a CUP for Private Use Camping (non-commercial). The property is a vacant lot located on Howellsville Road. and zoned Residential (R-1) and located in the Shenandoah Magisterial District. This application drew significant opposition from neighboring property owners, who cited the present condition of the lot as an eyesore as the rationale for opposing the permit. The applicant acknowledged that the property’s appearance needed to be improved but that he had been wrestling with several issues with registering the RV on the site and with the cleanup.

Jeffrey Taylor explains his circumstances for a vacant lot he has applied for Private Use Camping (non-commercial). The commission was unconvinced and eventually voted to recommend denial with setback requirements not being met.

His intentions were to use the property recreationally, but his personal circumstances have precluded him from doing that so far. Planning Director Wendling told the Commission that approval of a permit would allow the applicant to bring in power for his camper and build an accessory storage structure with the issuance of a building permit. In the end, the voices of the neighboring property owners prevailed, and on a motion by Commissioner Kersjes, seconded by Commissioner Richardson, the Commission voted to recommend the denial of the permit.

The Consent Agenda was for Authorization to Advertise three Conditional Use Permits and a Rezoning request for public hearing:

  • For Ryan Wesley Eshelman – A request for a CUP for a Commercial Repair Garage with Single Family Dwelling. The property is located at 1034 Rivermont Drive in the Fork Magisterial District.
  • For Cindy L. Duvall – A request for a CUP for a Short-Term Tourist Rental. The property is located at 197 Marissa Court in the Shenandoah Magisterial District.
  • For Jay Newell – A request for a CUP for Private Use Camping (non-commercial). The property is zoned Residential One (R-1) and located in the Shenandoah Magisterial District.
  • For W.P. Associates –c/o Ray M. Pennington III – A request for rezoning from Residential One (R-1) to Agricultural (A). The properties are located in the Blue Ridge Reserves subdivision and are vacant lots in the Shenandoah Magisterial District.

These applications will be advertised for public hearings at the next planning commission meeting on October 12.

Finally, the Commission reviewed a final plat for a class B subdivision of 9 lots for Strawberry Fields Farm, LLC off Route 631 (Gooney Manor Loop) in the South River Magisterial District. After a brief discussion, the Commission unanimously approved the plot plan.

The Commission adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

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Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
 
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Fall Bazaar @ FRUMC Fellowship Hall
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Fall Bazaar @ FRUMC Fellowship Hall
Fall Bazaar will be held Saturday, October 1st, from 8 am – 2 pm, in the Front Royal United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. Baked goods, jewelry and accessories, Silent Auction, holiday decorations, and apple dumplings[...]
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Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. During Fall Farm Days’ Nature Weekend, get in touch with nature and explore a managed landscape rich in biodiversity. Discover native flora and fauna, learn the craft of beekeeping, the importance of various[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 1 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
5:00 pm WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser @ Bowling Green Country Club North
WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser @ Bowling Green Country Club North
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WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser @ Bowling Green Country Club North
WATTS 3rd Annual Fundraiser – An Evening of Caring & Sharing Come out to support WATTS homeless shelter (Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter) and help us fundraise for our upcoming overnight shelter season! A fun[...]
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11:00 am Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sk... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 2 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: The Nature of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. During Fall Farm Days’ Nature Weekend, get in touch with nature and explore a managed landscape rich in biodiversity. Discover native flora and fauna, learn the craft of beekeeping, the importance of various[...]