By Kim Walter -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Town and county officials met Monday night to discuss complaints dealing with the community's building inspection and permitting processes.
Building Official David Beahm gave a short presentation dealing directly with a letter from Betty Ward sent to the town and county that listed issues she had when trying to move a business to a property on Chester Street in Front Royal. Beahm presented Town Council, as well as citizens and county officials in attendance, with construction pictures, drawings, comments and other letters exchanged between Beahm and Ward.
In Ward's letter, she said "When contacting potential contractors outside the county, as well as experts in the state offices, I have been amazed at the response: 'Warren County is the worse county in the state to deal with and you should have considered Shenandoah or Frederick County.'"
Beahm said he wanted to verify this and contacted the state's Board of Housing and Community Development. He quoted a letter from Emory Rodgers, deputy director of the Division of Building and Fire Regulation which said, "No employee can authorize or should have ever personally said such statements," and went on to say that the comments did not transpire.
Mayor Timothy Darr said that while it might not be coming from the state level, "we hear it locally that the town and county is hard to deal with."
Former mayor Stan Brooks shared his concerns, after which Darr asked town staff to look into the possibility of conducting its own building inspections and permitting process.
Beahm said that his department did 7,500 inspections in 2011, 1,900 of them being in town, and distributed 1,850 permits in 2011, 461 of them being in town.
County Administrator Doug Stanley said many of the issues raised came from lack of communication between different departments and officials. He also questioned exactly how many complaints the town and county received.
Darr compared the concern with one person having a bad meal at a restaurant.
"One bad review can ruin the perception," he said.
Stanley also explained that in recent months, a process had begun that would bring new business owners to Jennifer McDonald with the Economic Development Authority, who would then get that person in touch with David Beahm and Jeremy Camp, director of Planning and Zoning for the town. From there, a site visit and walk-through would be scheduled to "identify potential issues up front."
He said the process was implemented after Ward's project began last August.
"Hopefully this will head off some issues in a proactive manner," Stanley said.