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Posted March 10, 2012 | comments 7 Comments

Rezoning approval paves way for development

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- After HEPTAD's initial rezoning application in 2005, Town Council has approved an updated one for a proposed development project known an Swan Estates.

The proposed Leach Run Parkway would run through a portion of the 98.25 acre property, which is on the eastern side of Front Royal by the Happy Creek Knolls subdivision and two Warren County public schools.

Now that the application is approved, the property has been rezoned from an R-S Suburban Residential District to a Planned Neighborhood Development District, which allows for a higher density of dwellings.

The proposed use would allow up to 450 dwellings, or 4.58 dwellings per acre. Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp said this would include condos and a mixture of single-family attached and detached dwellings.

"There's also about 45 percent of the property left for open space," Camp said. The space is planned to incorporate a neighborhood park, he said, and added that the rezoning was consistent with the town's Comprehensive Plan.

The park would be 3.5 acres, and have space for multi-purpose sports, a playground, picnic area and possibly a walking trail. The proffer statement also proposes a passive recreational spot for a bird habitat preservation area.

"This is a good partnership between HEPTAD and the town," said Camp. He explained that the applicant would pay between $6 and $7 million in cash proffers, with about $4 million of that going to the town.

Camp said 9 acres of the property is set aside for commercial use, which would be right next to where the proposed Leach Run Parkway would run. The proffer statement agrees to construct two lanes of Leach Run Parkway following the construction of the first 130 dwellings.

However, if the town starts construction on the parkway sooner, then construction of the road running through the property would have to happen sooner, Camp said.

The proffer statement also requires that a temporary construction road be built from Va. 55 to the property, as a precaution to separate that traffic from residential and school traffic.

According to recommendations from the Planning and Zoning staff, "the applicant has made significant proffers to help mitigate the impacts of the development and generally improve how the future development of the property will help the Town of Front Royal prosper."

7 Comments | Leave a comment

    What pray tell is a "HEPTAD"? When I was in journalism school many moons ago, I was taught that you do not use an acronym in an article until after you have first explained it initially. I have no idea what a "HEPTAD" is.

    Does HEPTAD stand for High Energy Project To Add Debt? Maybe.

    You will be pleased to learn "HEPTAD LLC" is the real estate development limited liability corporation front for former Warren County Supervisor, charter member of the notorious club for old white guys, somebody we all know and love, defeated in his re-election attempt, appointed by the Good Old Boys on the Front Royal Town council to serve on the Economic Development Authority Board of Directors, and also partnered with national builder Brookfield-Washington to build the Catlett Road development, the one, the only.....Ron Llewellyn. Taaaa daaaaa!

    Is it not curious town and county authorities approved building two highways with tax payer money through two development properties, (Swan Farm and Catlett Road) owned by limited liability corporations controlled by Ron Llewellyn. Probably just a coincidence, huh?

    Interesting, thank you for the assistance!

    I have seen the term "good ol boys" thrown around weirdly here, but for once I can agree that the term defiantly applies here.

    Sounds like this project is better suited to Fairfax. What if the proffers do not cover actual costs? Who picks up the tab? Perhaps the LLC should be required to post a bond or deposit earnest money to cover any shortfall. Isn't Warren County already 25% open space? Why squish folks into condos and apartments, unless you want to encourage migration from urban bad-lands.

    True, this is a Fairfax sized development, but it is being built to entice Prince William residents, and perhaps a few well-to-do Washingtonians. Let's consider other aspects of this Swan Farm 450 dwelling development.

    Who will purchase these dwellings? The advertising will solicit potential buyers from which areas? Perhaps history can shed some light? Lets take Shenandoah Shores. We all know what it is today, but what was it like 30 - 40 years ago? For 40 years, B. K. Haynes made a living - and a lucrative one - by convincing city slickers to invest in country real estate. With creative ad-writing and inherent home-spun country boy rustic charm, he sold, developed and brokered an estimated 300 square miles of land over a four-state region surrounding the Shenandoah National Park. His success came from advertising building lots to well-to-do Washingtonians as the perfect place to build a rustic cabin for those weekend getaways. I bought one of his lots near New Market and built a 2 bedroom cabin for weekend get-a-ways, just like the ads suggested. Haynes still sells a book he wrote, portraying himself as a "dirt peddler". In fact that is the title of the book, Dirt Peddler. Google it. Haynes also served a couple terms as a Warren County Supervisor, circa 1995-2003, strategically positioned to be on the inside of insider information.

    Ron Llewellyn is the modern day B.K. Haynes wanna-be. Creekside Woods, Reliance Woods, and on and on. He bought 203 acres located in Warren County on Catlett Road, partnered with a national builder, Brookfield-Washington, and attempted to obtain zoning approval for nearly 300 homes. He got shot down for lack of municipal water and sewer from Front Royal, resulting in 80 homes. At about the same time, Centex Homes was pushing a huge 5,000 home development, partly in Warren County, partly in Front Royal, supported by supervisors Llewellyn, Carter and Traczyk who were threatening to sell Warren's river water rights to a desperate, water supply deprived Frederick County in exchange for providing municipal water/sewer to Llewellyn and Centex. After Catlett Road water/sewer was turned down, Centex was not happy about the prospects of receiving Front Royal water and sewer for its Warren County portion of the huge development of 5,000 homes. Llewellyn was powerless. Ultimately, the economic downturn was the final straw that broke Centex's back. Many citizens believe Mike Graham was the scapegoat for the denial of town water/sewer services to county developments. We all know what happened to Mike Graham.

    Not so with Swan Farm. It's in town. Water and sewer are a given. So who will buy one of these 450 expensive homes? Maybe a few rich Washingtonians, but more likely the advertising will entice Prince William residents to come enjoy the lower taxed Warren County rural qualities of living next to Skyline Drive and George Washington National Forrest.

    City slickers can't resist re-capturing the country living lost when urban sprawl invades and surrounds. How do I know all this? I grew up on a dairy farm in Loudoun, moved into Arlington County, where every square inch was already fully developed by the 1950's, then to Fairfax, to Prince William, and to Warren. Now Warren is poised to suffer the same population growth explosion, thanks to Clay Athey who brought Urban Development Area re-zonings to Warren County, enabling Llewellyn to push housing densities to city levels.

    Will the developer proffers pay for the full impact on county services? No.

    You and I will pay the remainder of that impact in the form of higher taxes.

    If you lived in Loudoun you know what happened to a charming, sophisticated, historic county. Re-zoning changed the character of a beautiful place so that it is a now a mess. The developers (like Till Hazel) even tried to move the county seat out of Leesburg to one of their developments. Thanks to Joe Kelly, a small business owner, this did not happen. High density is completely inappropriate to Warren County. We do not need to Fairfax Warren. And, we should learn from the mistakes of Loudoun.

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