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Planners debate rezoning for 320 homes

Brown: Request by Vazzana is in conflict with certain aspects of town's comprehensive plan

By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- The town's comprehensive plan seemed as much in debate during a Planning Commission work session Tuesday as the impact of a pending 320-home rezoning application.

David Vazzana, president of Front Royal Limited Partnership, has requested the rezoning of roughly 150 acres in the area of Happy Creek Road and Mary's Shady Lane from residential estate to a denser residential zoning to allow for 320 single-family homes, as opposed to 75 to 99 that could be built by-right.

Andrew J. Conlon Jr., the town planning and zoning director, set the tone for discussion of the comprehensive plan by saying from the outset of Tuesday's meeting that in his opinion, the downzoning of the area that includes the rezoning request to one house per acre has put the town in somewhat of a dilemma.

"We can't straddle the fence," Conlon said. "We can't be something in between, and I say that one unit to the acre with town water and sewer is something in between. It is neither agricultural or town urban."

Planning Commission member Therese Brown, whose four-year term on the panel expires next week, took Conlon to task over how Front Royal Limited Partnership's rezoning request is in conflict with certain aspects of the town's comprehensive plan, as well as previous town and county planning sessions, known as charettes.

Conlon recommended that the town begin to negotiate with the applicant to receive $20,000 per residential unit for the combined impact on town and county services.

The second proffer to negotiate, Conlon said, would be at-grade improvements, to include a traffic light and turn-lane improvements, at the intersection of Shenandoah Shores Road and Happy Creek Road, where there is a railroad crossing.

The third item to be negotiated, Conlon said, would be the specifics of the applicant's portion of construction of a cross-town or east-west parkway, with the first portion an access road connecting the development with Shenandoah Shores Road.

When Brown asked if the improvements to the intersection would need to be proffered since it appears they would be required even with by-right development, Conlon said that it would be preferable to have the improvements proffered because, if not, the applicant could possibly argue at the subdivision stage that the improvements are off-site and therefore not mandatory.

Brown countered that the comprehensive plan stipulates that growth cannot make traffic worse, and with a projection of an additional 3,200 vehicular trips per day, that would be the case at that intersection. She also referred to a previous statement that Conlon has made that unless the applicant can demonstrate otherwise, "a grade separated intersection [flyover] is required."

"Don't be misled," Conlon retorted. "Objectives of the comprehensive plan are not law. The plan is merely a guideline. We can't require through a subdivision what's recommended through the comprehensive plan."

Commission member Sandra Charles expressed a concern about how much control the town would have over the project if it is given final approval by the Town Council.

"Once we rezone the property, we don't have any control over what [Vazzana] puts in there," she said.

Conlon concurred, saying that the only control would be through the subdivision process, with the applicant already indicating it will ask for modifications in the subdivision requirements.

Contrary to the charette planning sessions, which recommended mixed-use development for the area in question, Front Royal Limited Partnership is only seeking residential development, Brown said, noting that Warren County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley has said that "residential development does not pay for itself."

Conlon reiterated a point he made at the beginning of the three-hour work session, that the town needs to decide whether the 1,700 acres in the Happy Creek Road area should be rural or urban in character.

"If the town thinks it should be rural character, then I would sure recommend that it be de-annexed," Conlon said. "That it's not reasonable at all to provide town water and sewer to rural, agricultural development and if we think that's the way this should be, then it should be left to the county with a strong statement that we will not provide town utilities to this area."

Vazzana also weighed in, saying that his application is in line with the majority of the comprehensive plan, except for the request for roughly 2.2 homes per acre.

"I'm not an enemy here," he said. "I'm really trying my best to work with you guys to do something that potentially is better than what exists today as far as the subdivision ordinance goes."

The Planning Commission has scheduled another work session on the rezoning application for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Town Hall.

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Bill Pierceall

Deja vu all over again. Like peas in a pod, with big developer profits at stake, Front Royal citizens can obtain an inkling where the Vazzana rezoning application is headed by reviewing Warren County's handling of their Comprehensive Plan as applied to the Crooked Run II rezoning.

Both developments require major modification of their respective comprehensive plans.

Both developments have planning commission directors working hard to facilitate the developers application and to minimize the developers true proffer costs. Which side of the butter is the bread on?

Both developments have a cheerleader saying the comprehensive plan is only a recommendation, a mere suggestion of what is the best use for the land under consideration. Clay Athey used this argument with success on behalf of Crooked Run II.

Both projects have a developer claiming they will change the property into something better than it is today. Better for who?

Both projects bring major traffic increases with them.

Both projects claim increased traffic flows will not impact existing homeowners in the area. Have you been to Target or Wal-Mart lately? Does amusement park dodge'em cars come to mind?

Both governments, and by extension their citizens, will be burdened with infrastructure expenses to support the completed developments. Doug Stanley has a finger in both pies; ask him.

The only thing left to complete this comparison is having Clay Athey step forward on behalf of Vazzana.

But wait! Who is that person standing in the shadows, ready to lead a small handful of developers who already own hundreds of acres in the area, eager to modify comprehensive plans to better suit their clients commercial development needs? Could it be.....?

Now comes Stanley opening the door for Vazzana to add some commercial development to his project because at $20,000 proffered per home "residential development does not pay for itself".

This is good to know should Centex reappear. Maybe proffering $50,000 to $100,000 per home is getting closer to having a development pay for itself? Whoops, there goes the profits.

You guys in Happy Creek need more chain restaurant dining experiences? Maybe a soccer field or two? Skate parks are nice. Five dollar cups of coffee? Bumper-to-bumper at traffic lights is always high on the list of things that add to everyday quality-of-life benefits.

History has spoken. What have we learned? He who has the money makes the rules?

kim bishop

I agree with you, Bill. Strasburg did the same thing during their re-zoning "relay" of a few years ago. The Island Farm was also in the comprehensive plan marked for no residential development, but surprise, the developer made enough deals to get it re-zoned. Clay Athey was involved in that too.

There is a choice for conservatives who have had enough of Clay Athey. Check out the Constitution Party and their candidate, Todd Jack. Now is the time to stop all the partisan Democrat v. Republican non-sense and vote third party. Until we get past the two party system nothing will ever change!


If you really want to complain about eyesores in Front Royal, try the pink disasters on Royal Ave across from Jack Evans.


You are so right about that house. What an atrocity! Inflatables all over that front yard!


Oh my gosh, I forgot about that, not sure how I did that. I actually meant the pink leaning tower of pisa-like apartments near the County Seat with the peeling paint. Oh and how could I forget the historic formerly beautiful Inn on the corner of Main and Royal. I love that building and hope someone someday with restore it.

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