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Work session: Town reviews inclement weather policy, new Sheetz project

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FRONT ROYAL — Following a closed session to interview town manager candidates, members of the Front Royal Town Council during their January 21 work session reviewed proposed changes to the Town’s inclement weather policy, as well as a new Sheetz Inc. project, signs at the new hospital on Leach Run Parkway, and a water-sewer connection fees waiver request from a local nonprofit.

In an intersection improvements agenda item brought before the Town Council by Front Royal Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp, it was recommended that the Town accept a donation of funds from Sheetz and approve the company’s planned store and gas station project, which will be built on the site of the shuttered Shenandoah Motel.

Sheetz has purchased the motel lot where it will build and this summer open a station with 10 fuel pumps and a roughly 4,900-square-feet store, along with parking, landscaping and an underground stormwater management facility.

A full entrance has been proposed on N. Shenandoah Avenue and W. 17th Street for the Sheetz store and gas station project, which recently received approval from the Front Royal Planning Commission.

However, planning commission members expressed concerns during the site plan review process about general traffic congestion, as well as the narrowness of the intersection on W. 17th Street.

In response, Sheetz has offered to pick up 100 percent of the tab by donating a total of $23,322 to the Town to add a slip-lane that would improve the level of service of the intersection by separating right-turn movement from left-turn movement, said Camp, who also included a draft cash escrow agreement between Sheetz and the Town in the agenda packet.

“The purpose of this agenda item is to present this to Town Council to determine if it would like to accept the funds and complete the project,” Camp explained during the work session. “Per the offer from Sheetz, the improvements would need to be completed with two years.” Photos and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

After Town Councilmen William Sealock and Gary Gillispie noted their own concerns about the project’s start date and the subsequent impact on traffic, Town Mayor Eugene Tewalt told Interim Town Manager Matthew Tederick to place the item on the Town Council’s next consent agenda for action so that the project can get going.

Camp also presented another work session agenda item regarding a Town Code amendment request from Valley Health, which has submitted an application for an ordinance amendment to the Town’s sign regulations, primarily for public safety.

The Town’s planning commission previously reviewed the Valley Health request, held a public hearing, and then approved it.

Specifically, Valley Health’s requested amendment would change existing Town Code regulations to define what a medical center is and modify existing standards.

For example, the maximum sign size requirement would change from a maximum sign size of 60-square-feet to 200-square-feet for wall signs; to 150-square-feet for public ground-mounted signs; and to 75-square-feet for private ground-mounted signs, according to the work session agenda form.

Camp said that such standards are comparable with the standards that Valley Health uses at other new hospital facilities, such as the one in Winchester, Va. And the changes would apply only to medical centers that include medical facilities as part of an integrated development on at least two acres, he said.

Town staff, which does not object to the planning commission’s approval recommendation, on Tuesday recommended that Town Council hold a required public hearing along with a first and second reading for a Town Code amendment.

In another work session agenda item, Tederick discussed changes to the Town’s inclement weather policy for council members to consider.

Tederick said he’s “trying to change the culture” among Town employees, and he said he considers all employees to be “essential employees.”

Thus, the interim mayor provided policy and procedures outlining the responsibilities of essential and non-essential employees — to be referred to as Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees, respectively — during inclement weather.

Tier 1 Employees are those whose job functions require that he/she report to work, regardless of environmental factors, to provide essential services to the public, or provide direct leadership or support, according to Tederick’s outline. These employees would be in a department that typically operates on a 24-hour-a-day rotating schedule or would play a critical role in maintaining the safety and services of the Town.

Tier 2 Employees are those whose job functions are not considered critical for maintaining the safety and services to the Town, and who are not required to report to work during an inclement weather event.

Tederick then described procedures for employees, as well as their pay, when Town offices are open and when there’s a closure or delayed opening.

For example, Tier 1 employees who don’t report to work as scheduled during inclement weather conditions will not be paid, he said, nor granted the use of accumulated leave for time missed from work. Such employees also could be subject to disciplinary action.

It’s also important to note, Tederick said, that employees on vacation, sick, or personal leave, or otherwise not scheduled to work during the affected time period, are not eligible to be paid under this policy.

The other work session agenda item was a request from Habitat for Humanity of Warren County for the Town to waive the water and sewer tap fees totaling $15,068 for a new duplex at the corner of Brown Avenue and Cherrydale Avenue.

The nonprofit organization, which provides affordable homes for area families in the median income range who can’t qualify for conventional bank mortgages, relies heavily on donors and volunteers to construct homes, according to Jessica Priest-Cahill, executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity.

“Receiving this waiver will help lower the mortgage payment which will make the home more affordable for the chosen family,” Priest-Cahill wrote in a January 3 request sent to Tederick.
However, instead of issuing the waiver of the tap fees, Tederick recommended to Town Council members that an agreement be made with the property owners to place a lien on the duplex for the water and sewer connection fees.

Tederick cited a similar agreement executed in 2014 between the Town, Habitat for Humanity and a Cannon Street property owner for a waiver of planning permit fees and a waiver for the water and sewer connection fees, according to information Tederick provided to council members on Tuesday night.

Lastly, Front Royal Director of Finance B.J. Wilson presented the fiscal year (FY) 2021 revenue forecast for the Town, summarizing totals from taxes for real estate, personal property, bank stock, sales, lodging, communication, and meals, for instance, as well as expected revenue from water and sewer sales, among others.

Front Royal Director of Finance B.J. Wilson presented the fiscal year (FY) 2021 revenue forecast for the Town.

Wilson said for FY 2021, the total projected Town revenue is $42,128,597. This would be an increase over both the projected FY 2020 revenue total of $41,586,920 and the actual FY 2019 revenue of $40,814,872, said Wilson.

Councilman Jacob Meza was absent during the January 21 work session, which was attended by Mayor Tewalt; Vice Mayor Sealock; and council members Gillispie, Chris Holloway, Letasha Thompson, and Lori Cockrell.

The Town Council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for January 27 and the council has another work session planned for February 3.

Watch the entire Town Council work session on this exclusive Royal Examiner video:

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Warren County budget process continues with requests from County Departments and Constitutional Officers: Airport, Sanitary Districts

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

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

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

Ralph Rinaldi discusses the budget request from the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District with the Board of Directors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

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

In part 9, the Clerk of the Court, Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Virginia Cooperative Extension presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 10, Social Services and Fire and Rescue presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 11, County Administration, General Services and the Planning Department presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 12 we wrap up the second budget meeting with budget requests from Airport Services and the Sanitary Districts. This part is a long one – nearly two hours. It ends with some comments from Doug Stanley.

Watch the budget process on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.


Front Royal-Warren County Airport

The Front Royal-Warren County Airport (FRR) is nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley on 90 acres where the Shenandoah River curves gracefully by the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountains. The Airport is located three miles southwest of Front Royal and fifteen miles south of Winchester. The facility is the home to Cass Aviation, the Randolph-Macon Academy Flight Training Program, the Skyline Soaring Glider Club, and Front Royal Aero Services.

The Airport’s location is just outside the Washington ADIZ which makes it attractive for low-stress flying. FRR has a 3,000-foot by 75-foot runway and offers 100LL aviation fuel. The airport has undergone an extensive improvement plan that includes a new terminal and ramp, resurfaced runway, a ten bay T-hanger, and a 16 bay jet pod unit in 2003. In addition, the Airport is part of the regional general aviation system serving the entire Eastern and Middle Atlantic United States and offers less than a one hour flying time to Baltimore, Maryland; Charlotte, North Carolina; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and New York, New York.

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Warren County budget process continues with requests from County Departments and Constitutional Officers: Administration, General Services, Planning

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

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

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

Planning Director Taryn Logan presents her budget to the Board of Supervisors. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

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

In part 9, the Clerk of the Court, Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Virginia Cooperative Extension presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

In part 10, Social Services and Fire and Rescue presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

Now, in part 11, we’ll hear from County Administration, General Services and the Planning Department in this exclusive Royal Examiner video.


County Administration

The Warren County Administrator’s Office directs the daily operations of the County government and engages in the long-range planning of governmental operations.

The County Administrator’s Office has responsibilities to the Board of Supervisors, to other County departments and personnel, and to the general public. Provides general information to the staff, boards and commissions and the public in general and coordinates volunteer program and community service programs

General Services

Warren County’s General Services Department was established during the fiscal year 2017-2018.  The Department manages the operations of Warren County Building and Grounds, maintaining all of the County’s facilities with the goal of keeping them neat, attractive, safe and hazard-free while providing a comfortable work environment for employees and an effective place for citizens to conduct County business.  The Department’s responsibilities include the general maintenance and janitorial services needed to ensure the proper upkeep of the County’s facilities.

In addition to Buildings and Grounds maintenance, the Department plays an active role in the implementation of the County’s Capital Improvement Plan, providing project management and staff support for many projects during construction.

Planning Department

The mission of the Office of Planning is to assist the community in developing the County to its best potential. Our staff evaluates and implements policies to support the goals of the community as it prospers and matures. The office is responsible for the review of development applications such as rezonings, special use permits, comprehensive plan amendments, zoning approvals, and zoning appeals and variances. Zoning approval is required prior to the construction of any new structure and any new business in an existing building.

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Warren County budget process continues with requests from County Departments and Constitutional Officers: Social Services, Fire & Rescue

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

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

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

Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie presents his budget request to the Board of Supervisors.

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

In part 9, the Clerk of the Court, Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Virginia Cooperative Extension presented their budget requests to the Board of Supervisors.

Now in part 10, we’ll hear from Social Services and Fire and Rescue in this exclusive Royal Examiner video.


Social Services

Warren County Department of Social Services is a high performing agency committed to strengthening, supporting, and empowering families so that they can achieve their highest goals as part of the Warren County community.

Fire and Rescue Services

The Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services provide Fire and EMS response to the 38,387 citizens across the 216 square miles of Front Royal/Warren County, Virginia.  Utilizing the combination approach of career and volunteer Fire, EMS and Support personnel, we staff 8 individual volunteer Fire and EMS combination stations with 33 uniformed full-time career personnel, 20 part-time career personnel and approximately 70 volunteer response personnel. 

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Opinions and statistics from INSIDE the local tourism community contradict Town rationale for change

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Following lead-off batter Gary Kushner in a nearly 90-minute first-inning that saw 27 people step to the plate, 22 of 24 addressing the Front Royal Town Council and interim town manager’s fastball approach to downsizing and outsourcing several governmental functions, a number of pointed statements, questions and inquiries were made (sorry for the baseball analogy, the Astro’s World Series cheating scandal has my attention).

Second speaker Marie McDaniel introduced herself as a new resident of a year, who has fallen in love with the community and its people. She noted she had volunteered at the Town Visitors Center to learn more about her new community, observing, “That special place and the people who work there and volunteer are amazing. They all have a passion for promoting Front Royal, even with threats of unemployment hanging over their heads.”

The first of two Visitors Center volunteers, Marie McDaniel weighs in on what the Center and its staff mean to this community’s tourism marketing. Photo by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Citing already fired Community Development Director Felicia Hart, Tourism Director Tim Smith and staff, she added, “They make the (Visitors) Center the heart and soul of this town … Don’t lose it the way we seem to lose dogs, cats, goats …” drawing applause as she concluded.

Joanne Kearney, a second Visitors Center volunteer followed, noting she had not been solicited by anyone to speak on their or the Visitors Center’s behalf. Pointing to a previous effort to outsource tourism promotion that did not work out, Kearney cited the negative impact of lost control of a key marketing tool from outsourcing.

“The town is our product, and our mission at the (Visitors) Center is to support the success of every business and attraction. New management may have a different mission … How will the town’s interests be protected and what oversight will there be on how your money is being spent? … Mr. Tederick reportedly said the government is not agile and creative enough to manage tourism, but the department staff HAS displayed creativity and agility in new outreach and initiatives … Tourism is this town’s lifeblood. The council should be INCREASING support for the department, not handing it off to an unknown quantity.”

Second Visitors Center volunteer Joanne Kearney concurred and elaborated on reasons she believes the Center and staff should remain an in-house function of the town government. Photo by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Kearney pointed to the experience of other communities, as well as Front Royal’s, in unsuccessful efforts to outsource the tourism function in concluding, “This outsourcing stands to do more harm than good and could cost much more than it hopes to save, as many other municipalities have learned. Why repeat a course that has already been found unsuccessful … Consider the long-term ramifications and potential losses. Please reject the outsourcing plan and keep the staff and operations of tourism with the town, for the sake of the town,” again drawing wide applause at her conclusion.

Not ‘agile’ enough?

Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community Committee Co-Chair Susan Tschirhart repeated concerns expressed in a committee co-chair letter to the mayor and town council, that as she noted was also printed in the “Opinion” section of the Royal Examiner website, in the immediate aftermath of the announced terminations and plans to outsource the Town’s tourism function.

AT Trail Community Committee Co-Chair Susan Tschirhart presents financial and AT Trail Community statistics to uphold the argument the Town Tourism function has, indeed, been agile and effective in promoting tourism in this community. Photo by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

But on February 10 she elaborated on those concerns to the council’s and its staff’s face. In that eyeball to eyeball meeting, she also presented numbers that appeared to contradict Interim Town Manager Tederick’s stated “not agile enough” rationale for sweeping changes like outsourcing, immediate terminations, and potential future firings related to the Town’s tourism function. In opening, Tschirhart pointed to momentum the community has developed related to its “AT Community” designation and the importance of the Town and County’s interrelationship in tourism marketing – an effort illustrated by the Joint Town-County Tourism Advisory Board which also met last week, though apparently also without any foreknowledge or information about the Town’s planned and partially implemented course of action on tourism.

“Our town and county were jointly designated an official AT Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in 2012. Our committee of volunteers raises awareness of and support for trail-friendly local business, land-use policies that protect the trail and its views, and hiking as a healthy outdoor activity. AT Community designation has directly resulted in five new businesses, including three on Main Street, all of which are thriving. At this time, we are proud to partner with 22 businesses and organizations that have sought and earned AT Community Supporter certification …

“Not only did tourism attract $151 million in visitor expenditures to Warren County in 2018, a 4.9% increase over 2017, but, according to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, it supported 1700 jobs, a combined payroll of $23 million, and contributed $3 million to local tax coffers … Last week, based on 210 reviews, our Visitor Center was ranked second only to Skyline Caverns as top attractions in Front Royal. Do you know how unusual it is for a visitor center to rank as an attraction?” Tschirhart asked, adding pointedly, “And we’re about to fire that entire staff and change a recipe that has been steadily generating increased revenue for each of the past five years.”

The Front Royal Visitors Center is ranked as Front Royal’s second ‘attraction’ after the Skyline Caverns – an unusual designation for a Visitors Center, Tschirhart points out. Photo by Roger Bianchini.

And of that Town tourism budget already appropriated for the current fiscal year that runs to June 30, well into the hiking and tourist season, Tschirhart observed, “We were also puzzled to learn that the tourism budget for marketing and advertising has been frozen. This is money already allocated to the current fiscal year and critical to generating business for 170 tourism-dependent businesses in the county who count on the Visitor Center and its marketing materials and services to generate income. Eighty-five percent of Front Royal’s tourism budget is covered by lodging fees, all collected from visitors to our area. The remaining 15% comes from Front Royal promotional merchandise sold at the Visitor Center. None of our tourism department’s salaries or expenses come out of our own taxpayer dollars. Why are we cutting the tourism budget just as the tourism season is about to begin?” Tschirhart asked.

She also suggested that council and the interim town manager’s course of action flies in the face of, not only the Town’s own past experience with outsourcing tourism, but other Valley communities who have learned their lessons and are moving in exactly the opposite direction from the one five elected and two appointed town citizens have chosen to move this Appalachian Trail Community in.

“Berryville and Round Hill were designated AT Communities last year. Luray, designated just after Front Royal is now working toward moving its under-performing tourism department out from under its Chamber (of Commerce). In all of the other counties, tourism is handled by town/county government, and none are privatized,” Tschirhart told the town’s elected and appointed officials.

AT Trail Community Co-Chair Scott Jenkins, owner of Mountain Home B&B near the AT, adds to his co-chair’s call for the council to slow its and its staff’s rush to judgment on radical changes to tourism marketing. Photo by Roger Bianchini.

“Virginia’s recreation economy is booming. Roanoke is now positioning itself to compete with Asheville, North Carolina as a site for outdoor manufacturing. Damascus just broke ground for the Trail’s newest trail center. Situated between Damascus and AT headquarters in Harper’s Ferry, Warren County hosts one of the most popular section hikes along the trail’s 500-mile stretch in Virginia … The average thru-hiker along the AT will spend $5500 during the course of their hike, and another $4000 on gear. According to a 2010 survey, they’ll spend an average of $153 per town visit, a figure that has no doubt increased over the last 10 years.

“So, why all this effort to engage the outdoor industry?” Tschirhart asked rhetorically, answering her own question by noting, “Because it’s a $362 billion dollar industry driven largely by hiking, camping, and rock climbing, all of which can be found in abundance here … Nationally, revenue generated by the outdoor industry exceeds even oil and gas.

“To mix metaphors, Front Royal should be riding that wave, not starving the golden goose,” Tschirhart said in closing.

Another council gamble?

According to one councilman, Gary Gillespie’s, remarks delivered later as a justification of council actions on a number of fronts, including legally with the EDA and budgetary from year to year, “We work for the taxpayers of Front Royal first and foremost. Again, it’s our job to fight and protect your money.”

The unanswered question remains – will reducing operational costs so they can say they made capital improvements, often long-delayed ones, without raising taxes in the coming fiscal year REALLY save this community money in the long term OR simply set the stage for a huge corresponding loss of revenue from a tourism industry crucial to both the Town and County’s economic futures?

It appears this Front Royal Town Council majority continues its propensity for gambling:

1 – on “promises” of lower interest rates versus facts regarding the availability of those rates on its police headquarters construction project;

2 – on soaring taxpayer-funded legal costs to fight over whether those broken verbal “promises” from a now-indicted former EDA official hold any legal weight in the conduct of municipal and economic development business;

3 – and now, on whether reducing the town government’s operational tax revenue needs is really a money saver for the Town and the community in the long term.

Roll the dice …

Kushner outlined Town downsizing plan’s critique, if not tone as questions mount for elected officials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Clerk of the Court

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

Commonwealth’s Attorney

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

Virginia Cooperative Extension

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

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New Planning Commissioners assume their seats, expect a busy year

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

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

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

2. Annual well water testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Annual well water testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Upcoming Events

Feb
19
Wed
2:00 pm Rotary Club Blood Drive @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Rotary Club Blood Drive @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Feb 19 @ 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Rotary Club Blood Drive @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
All are invited to the Rotary Club of the Shenandoah Valley (The Area ONE|ders) blood drive on Wednesday, February 19th, from 2pm-7pm, at the Front Royal United Methodist Church (1 W. Main St. Front Royal)[...]
Feb
20
Thu
10:15 am Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 20 @ 10:15 am – 12:00 pm
Toddler and Preschool Story Time @ Samuels Public Library
10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time Wednesday, February 19 and Thursday, February 20: Come in for some great stories, songs, and a craft about our feathered friends, Birds!  Siblings welcome. Wednesday, February[...]
Feb
21
Fri
9:00 am Entrepreneurship Workshop @ Luray-Page County Center
Entrepreneurship Workshop @ Luray-Page County Center
Feb 21 @ 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Entrepreneurship Workshop @ Luray-Page County Center
Are you considering independent, corporate, or social entrepreneurship, or being groomed to take over a family business? Then, this workshop is for you! Topics to be covered: Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur The Importance of[...]
Feb
22
Sat
10:00 am Beginner Crochet: Dishcloths @ Strokes of Creativity
Beginner Crochet: Dishcloths @ Strokes of Creativity
Feb 22 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Beginner Crochet: Dishcloths @ Strokes of Creativity
Beginner Crochet: Dishcloths In this beginner level class, you will learn some basic crochet stitches and pattern reading to make pretty dishcloths for your home. Instruction will be for right-handed crochet. Please pre-register!
11:00 am Art Stars @ Samuels Public Library
Art Stars @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 22 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Art Stars @ Samuels Public Library
Art Stars is a special needs art discovery program. This program is for ages 8 and up. Registration begins January 22. Participants should have a caregiver or attendant present in the program.
12:30 pm Crochet Workshop @ Strokes of Creativity
Crochet Workshop @ Strokes of Creativity
Feb 22 @ 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Crochet Workshop @ Strokes of Creativity
Crochet Workshop Do you have a crochet project you need a little help with? Already bought the supplies, but need help reading the pattern? All skill levels are invited to this Bring Your Own Project[...]
1:00 pm Discover love, adopt at Petco @ Petco
Discover love, adopt at Petco @ Petco
Feb 22 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Discover love, adopt at Petco @ Petco
Stop by Petco located at 2580 S Pleasant Valley Rd. on Saturday, February 22, between 1 and 4 PM. Meet the amazing Petco adoption team from the SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke, learn more about[...]
1:00 pm Moving Mindfully: Finding and ke... @ Ruby Yoga
Moving Mindfully: Finding and ke... @ Ruby Yoga
Feb 22 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Moving Mindfully: Finding and keeping your footing @ Ruby Yoga
Join Ruby Yoga and Deborah Romero of Optimal Posture LLC for a series of workshops on moving more mindfully through life using the principles of yoga and the Alexander Technique. Slated for Saturday, Jan. 25,[...]
2:00 pm Magic Show @ Samuels Public Library
Magic Show @ Samuels Public Library
Feb 22 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Magic Show @ Samuels Public Library
Local magician Kevin Owens will entertain the whole family with his amazing magic show, which always includes audience participation and lots of laughter!
2:00 pm Paint a Wine Bottle @ Strokes of Creativity
Paint a Wine Bottle @ Strokes of Creativity
Feb 22 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Paint a Wine Bottle @ Strokes of Creativity
Come paint a wine bottle with Dottie Knob. Dottie will guide you step by step as you create a wonderful up-cycled piece for your home, office, or to give as a gift! This is an[...]