By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL -- Local elections are moving to November and will remain non-partisan after action taken by Town Council Monday.
Council voted 5-1 at its regular meeting to adopt an ordinance on a final reading that switches elections from May to November of even-numbered years. The ordinance also states that ballots for local elections not identify candidates for mayor or town council by political affiliation.
Passage of the ordinance ends more than two years of debates, public hearings, failed attempts to change the town code and charter and a revived effort to move the elections to odd-numbered years.
The change also means a 6-month extension of the 4-year term for members of council and the mayor. Members and the mayor shall serve until Dec. 31 in the years in which their respective terms were set to expire.
Councilman Daryl L. Funk voted against approving the ordinance. Funk had stated at previous meetings and in interviews that he opposed the effort to make elections non-partisan and argued that such contests usually involve parties anyway. Funk has questioned whether such language would withstand a legal challenge.
Councilman Thomas H. Sayre voted in favor of the ordinance but told members he preferred moving the elections to the odd-numbered years. Sayre said moving elections to the odd-numbered years would reduce his term on council by six months rather than extend his time with even-numbered years.
Sayre at a work session last week proposed council prepare an alternative ordinance for such a change should the one that passed on first reading earlier this month fail on the second reading. Council had, after holding a public hearing, approved the ordinance on the first reading.
Also at its meeting council:
- Approved on first reading a request by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1860 to downzone 10.66 acres of property at 1847 N. Royal Ave. from industrial to agricultural use. The request includes proffers to restrict manufactured and tenant housing from the property. No one spoke at the public hearing held on the rezoning request.
- Approved a special-use permit requested by the VFW post to operate a flea market at the North Royal Avenue property. No one spoke at the public hearing held on the permit request. The VFW has proposed, through a phased approach, to make improvements to the parking lot with handicapped spaces, landscaping and an emergency access lane, and for the flea market to ultimately have 70 tables. The granting of the permit, which required one reading, is contingent on whether council approves the rezoning request on a second and final reading.
- Adopted on its second reading an ordinance approving an agreement between the town and the Boisseau Family and Royal Plaza Shopping Center to grant an easement for a walking and biking trail on the east side of the center. The trail would run parallel to U.S. 522 South (Remount Road).