By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL - Warren County leaders say they want the locality's interests protected if the town adds 600 acres eyed for future development.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday expressed concern that the county could bear higher costs -- fire and police response, schools -- that come with residential development.
The 600-plus acre site, owned by the Front Royal Limited Partnership, could yield hundreds of homes depending on how the firm develops the property, officials say. Homes, in turn, can mean more school-aged children, which would cost the county schools more money.
County resident Ramona Bowden, during the public comment period, expressed fear that allowing the annexation to proceed would lead to development of the property at the locality's expense.
But as County Administrator Douglas Stanley noted the developer has not provided details on plans for the property. Any development of the site may not come for years, Stanley said.
The county could conduct a fiscal impact analysis on any proposed development of the site but only if staff knows the developer's plans for the property. Stanley noted that the county could use current figures used to calculate the impact of homes but the numbers likely would change in the 10 years it may take to reach the point where the developer starts building.
Chairman Archie Fox said he was under the impression that they were still "looking and observing at what's coming down the pike."
"I know one of my questions was the impact analysis and I think the devil could be in the details in this for me and I just want to know more before I would make up my mind that I'm going to support it or vote against it," he said.
Vice Chairwoman Linda Glavis expressed concern that any agreement would keep the county's interests protected.
Stanley told the board that revenue from real estate taxes on homes does not cover the cost to supply services to the property. A commercial development element at the site could help offset costs the county could incur, Stanley has advised. Likewise, age-restricted housing would eliminate the presence of school-aged children and the related cost.
The county and town face a deadline to respond to the annexation request filed by the Front Royal Limited Partnership several months ago.
County Attorney Blair D. Mitchell advised the board the Commission on Local Government requires a response to the annexation proposal by Dec. 20. The response would outline the board and staff's concerns. The response also could advise the commission that parties appear headed toward an agreement but they request the commission push back the schedule and deadlines set to address the annexation request, Mitchell said. The commission plans to visit the property site in March.
While the board has expressed support for the boundary adjustment, Supervisor Tony Carter reiterated that members want to make sure the county receives adequate proffers.
"Part of the difficulty, I think, is I don't know if the developer knows what he wants to do," Carter said.
The board could craft a memorandum of understanding outlining what information the county wants from the developer in terms of the annexation's impact, Mitchell said. Such an agreement may call for the developer to address issues brought up by the county before seeking to rezone the property once added to the town, Mitchell said.
A formal boundary adjustment agreement must go before the commission for the agency's approval, Mitchell explained. But as part of the memorandum, the county could ask that the developer be bound to provide proffers to the county that would address the concerns with the costs to the locality, not just those seen now but as the land enters the rezoning phase, according to Mitchell.
Under town code, any land added through annexation comes into Front Royal zoned for agricultural use. The developer would need to rezone the property. Supervisors and staff expressed hope that the developer would seek to build at least some commercial sites in addition to residential buildings.
Stanley noted, "It's difficult to show that in a situation like this where you have an applicant requesting a boundary adjustment but not providing the detail."
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or email@example.com