By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL - A clerical error could have moved Front Royal elections from May to June instead of November as Town Council wants.
Del. Michael J. Webert, R-Warrenton, sponsored House Bill 2051 that seeks numerous changes to Front Royal's Town Charter. Changes include switching the town elections from May to November of the even-numbered years.
Town leaders and officials worked for months on the proposed changes, which require approval by the General Assembly to go into effect.
Mayor Timothy Darr and other council members on Monday expressed concern and disappointment that the legislation filed with the General Assembly includes an error that calls for town elections to move from May to June.
"We've been working on this ... since Thursday and Friday pretty diligently with the town attorney and hopefully we can at least have Del. Webert, [Del. C. Todd] Gilbert and Del. [Beverly] Sherwood or someone please get with us as soon as possible, let us know what's going on," Darr said. "At this point I don't want to go into any details other than the fact that I hope it was just an error made that can be corrected and we can move forward with our charter changes because over the last six months this council and the previous council worked very hard and diligently on our charter changes."
Webert's legislative aide, Joel Hensley, stated in an email Tuesday that the paragraphs indicating a change in the election schedule have been put back into the bill currently in the General Assembly. The language likely won't appear in the bill as listed on the legislative website until next week, Hensley stated.
But the simple typographical error sparked disappointment in some council members.
Darr added, "at the end of the day we sent it forward as a collective body and I hope that it continues on through Richmond in that same fashion."
Town Attorney Douglas W. Napier told council the bill's language changed at some point while in the hands of the General Assembly. Webert filed the legislation Jan. 9. Napier said he has since asked Webert to restore the bill to the original language approved by council. According to Napier, Webert said the changes might not appear in the filed bill right away.
Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker expressed concern that the deadline for legislators to file bills passed last Friday. Council Bret Hrbek said he hoped the wording error was an accidental typographical mistake.
Also at the meeting:
- Council heard from Michael Rush, director of housing with People Inc., who spoke about the nonprofit organization's proposal to build 28 units on property off Va. 55. People Inc. would use tax credits from the Virginia Housing Development Authority to complete the project. People Inc. has until Jan. 28 to report to the Virginia Housing Development Authority on whether the organization plans to move forward with the proposed project, Rush said. The nonprofit would need to obtain a special-use permit through the town's Planning Department, Rush added.
- Voted unanimously to renew a lease with Fusel Florist for approximately 22 parking spaces owned by the town through February 2018 for $12. Councilman Eugene Tewalt did not attend the meeting.
- Held a public hearing on a proposed amendment to town code related to fees charged for fulfilling certain requests through the Freedom of Information Act depending on the number of pages printed. No one spoke during the public hearing. Council approved the proposed change on a first reading.
- Held a public hearing on a proposed change to the town code pertaining to utility accounts. The amendment allows utility customers or their dependents who are in poor health an extension on the time allowed for nonpayment of the bills before the town disconnects service. No one spoke at the hearing. Council approved the measure on a first reading. The change would affect approximately 20-25 households, which were notified about the amendment, according to town Finance Director Kim Gilkey-Breeden. Town Manager Steven Burke told council staff does not have a problem tracking utility reconnections.
- Held a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the town code pertaining to outdoor displays, sales and storage, as well as certain vehicles, in the entrance corridor. Tammy Sullivan, of 1310 Adams Ave., asked where she could park her camper trailer. Sullivan said she received a warning from the town indicating that parking her trailer in the driveway at the side of her home violated the ordinance. Jeremy Camp, director of planning and zoning, said he would speak to her individually about the issue. Council voted 4-0 to approve the changes. Parker abstained from the vote. After a debate over whether Parker or any other council member should state why he abstained from voting, the vice mayor said: "I'm not going to vote on something that's not accurate and precise." Parker told council he would wait to vote on the matter when it returns for a second reading with any updates.
- Voted to approve the spending of no more than $36,500 to Patton, Harris, Rust & Associates to study the possible creation of a looped water system from the Happy Creek area to the U.S. 522 corridor and perform related preliminary engineering. The study will not include the analysis of a water system that would run parallel to the current pipes. Dominion will reimburse the town 75 percent of the cost of the study per its contract with Front Royal.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org