Issues remain with annexation proposal

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — A developer’s contributions to offset building on 604 acres of Warren County land being proposed for annexation by Front Royal still has some unresolved issues.

The town Planning Commission this week adopted a resolution to show the panel’s general support for the annexation petition filed in September by the Front Royal Limited Partnership. In spite of that support, the commission voiced some concerns.

The commission voted to send the resolution to the Town Council for its consideration. The resolution indicates the commission “does not believe that an adequate resolution of the issues can be obtained at this time.” The resolution included an appendix listing the most significant, outstanding issues as brought up by the commission as they pertain to the voluntary settlement agreement and the contributions, also known as proffers, the applicant has submitted with the proposal.

The commission voiced support for limiting the number of homes on the property to 818 and keeping the density at two houses per acre.

The resolution states that “the Planning Commission does not recommend that the Town agree to any conditions within a [voluntary settlement agreement] that would establish any vested rights in regards to zoning, subdivision or land development,” except for the density limitation.

But representatives of the applicants advised the commission they plan to submit new, revised documents, such as the Voluntary Settlement Agreement, for the annexation and development of the property. The firm’s representatives asked the commission to delay action on the resolution until the panel can review the “restructured” documents.

Commissioners agreed they needed to take some action that night and forward a recommendation or resolution to council. However, the commission decided to add language to the resolution indicating that they understand the developer plans to submit revised papers.

The Planning Commission’s endorsement comes with their concerns that the developer’s contributions would only meet the minimum requirements for development. The developer has proposed to make no cash contributions to offset the fiscal impact of building 818 homes beyond that as required under the Warren County standards.

“The Exemplar Proffers create unreasonable obligations for the Town,” the resolution appendix states. “This includes, but is not limited to, the requirement that unless the Town dedicates sufficient right-of-way for the East/West Connector Road within an arbitrary time period, as set by [the partnership], then [the partnership] is not required to build the East/West Connector Road, resulting in an insufficient transportation network to support the proposed development.”

Commission members and staff agreed that the exercise of deliberating over the proposal made it clear that the town not only should establish a protocol for addressing future annexations, but that Front Royal also needs its own fiscal impact model to determine what developments would cost the community in the long run.

The Front Royal Limited Partnership filed a petition with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Commission on Local Government on Sept. 19 seeking to annex 604 acres of county land into the town.

Town officials openly supported the proposal early in the process while their counterparts in Warren County raised concerns about the impact the future development of the property would have on services such as education. County leaders asked for a say in how the development would transpire and what guarantees may be in place to ensure the Board of Supervisors’ concerns also are addressed.

Another Planning Commission concern pertains to the traffic and road system related to the development. The developer paid for a traffic impact analysis to reflect the planned build-out of the property. However, the Virginia Department of Transportation does not plan to review the study until the developer goes through the normal process once the town annexes the land.

“Without VDOT review, it is unfeasible to determine if the applicant’s proffered road improvements are sufficient,” the appendix states.

The document notes that the developer has offered to build and occupy up to 469 homes without completing the construction of the east-west connector road seen as a major transportation need with the project.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com