By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Developers of a housing community in Front Royal want the town to annex an adjacent 600 acres in Warren County, but could face a legal battle if county leaders oppose the proposal.
Such a proposal, if approved by both localities, may require Front Royal to provide water and sewer to the area but also could give the town more real estate tax revenue. But as Blair D. Mitchell, county attorney for Warren County, explained by phone Friday, the initiative to change the town's boundary line to bring in the property must go through a complex and lengthy process.
David Vazzana and the Front Royal Limited Partnership filed a citizen-initiated annexation request with the Virginia Commission on Local Government, according to Mitchell. The partnership owns approximately 770 acres, 150 acres of which lie in the town limits for which the developer received approval for rezoning to a higher density, Mitchell explained. The developer sought to build homes on small lots. The annexation request involves the remaining 604 acres in the county north of the land in the town limits. Mitchell notes in the memorandum the site in question spans 604 acres between Happy Creek Road and Interstate 66. The request for annexation excludes the Duncan and Monnington properties and nine smaller parcels west of Shenandoah Shores Road.
"There would be some advantages to it," Mitchell said. "I think primarily what they're looking for is to have easier access to the road system, town law enforcement, town water and sewer utilities."
Vazzana did not respond to an email request for comment on Friday.
As Mitchell explained, both the Town Council and the Board of Supervisors must discuss the request.
"Both sides have to decide whether or not this is something that we want or do we want to fight it, or are there any terms and conditions that we want to negotiate with the Vazzana family and the limited partnership," Mitchell said. "So the process is just beginning and that's why [we] put it on the agenda for Tuesday, and I think the town was going to put it on their work session agenda for Monday as well..."
Both the town and county must file answering positions with the state by Dec. 20.
"Assuming that we're in an adversary position, the commission is supposed to come here, tour the property, tour other parts of the county as well, hold a public hearing, and have oral argument by the three sides -- the property, the town and the county -- In March ..." Mitchell explained.
The commission then would file a report with its recommendation on an outcome with the request, according to Mitchell.
The memorandum notes the county can oppose, support or come to mutually agreed terms with the town and Vazzana and any additional property owners. Terms could include additional land for inclusion; immunity from future annexations, revenue sharing, utility rates, zoning and land-use agreements; compensation to the county for land lost; infrastructure deals and acceptance by each side of proffers for the other side.
No lawsuit for annexation can be filed until after the commission makes a recommendation, according to Mitchell.
Attorneys and other officials for the town and county learned of the filing Sept. 20 when they received a copy of the petition at the same time the developer filed the document with the state agency, Mitchell recalled. Mitchell, Town Attorney Douglas Napier and Town Manager Steven Burke attended a commission meeting Thursday in Richmond to "go over the ground rules, the schedule and how we proceed from here."
Burke said in an email Friday that Front Royal staff "has not yet fully reviewed the documentation. Once it has been reviewed, we will discuss with Council."
The developers describe the annexation as "a logical extension of town's boundaries," Mitchell states. The developers also claim the annexation would make the construction of the east-west connector road more feasible and the town would benefit from the added tax base while not harming the county. Mitchell also noted the developer expect and county and town planning documents call for more dense development of the property.