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Commissioners frustrated by lack of information

By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Several members of the Front Royal Planning Commission are frustrated by a lack of information as they prepare for a public hearing on a significant rezoning in the Happy Creek Road area.

Members of the six-member panel expressed concerns following a Wednesday work session about proposed changes to the town's slope ordinance as it pertains to new subdivisions.

David Vazzana, of Front Royal Limited Partnership, has a rezoning request scheduled for a public hearing Wednesday. The request is to rezone roughly 150 acres, in the area of Happy Creek Road and Mary's Shady Lane, from residential estate to a denser residential zoning that would allow for 320 single-family homes.

The rezoning request is related to possible changes to the slope ordinance that could allow for more than the 75 to 100 homes Vazzana could build currently.

"Since there are so many unanswered questions, why are you having a public hearing?" Commissioner Sandra Charles asked.

"To keep the process moving forward," responded Andrew J. Conlon Jr., director of planning and zoning for the town.

Conlon told the commission that in fairness to the applicant, the project has been discussed for "quite a lengthy time."

"You've had it for about a year," said Joseph E. Duggan, who owns the Winchester landscape architectural firm J. Duggan and Associates and is a consultant for Vazzana.

While Vazzana has made what Duggan called a "good-faith effort" to keep the commission informed, Vazzana did not choose to submit a conceptual plan of the proposed development.

"I would love to see a creative development out there, but we have to have more information than we have," Charles said.

Commissioner Therese Brown questioned how Vazzana planned to have residents enter and leave the development, adding that the panel should have held a work session on the rezoning.

While commission Chairman David E. Gushee said he tends to favor the rezoning request because it appears to be in keeping with overall plans for the area, he noted the importance of the decision facing the panel.

"This is a seminal decision," Gushee said. "This is a very important decision."

Conlon told the panel that instead of Vazzana perhaps building an east-west connector road to help alleviate traffic concerns, he will donate money toward that end, but will primarily focus on making improvements to the intersection of Shenandoah Shores and Happy Creek roads.

"That disturbs me," Commissioner Glenn Wood said. "That disturbs me a lot."

Brown also weighed in.

"Whatever we do for this applicant, we have to do for next one," she said. "We are setting a precedent out there."

Gushee had the last word.

"I think we ought to be reminded that we can vote 'no,'" he said.

Vazzana did not return telephone calls on Thursday or Friday.

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