By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL - Talks over a proposal to annex land into town limits continue as officials look at how the effort could impact area traffic.
Representatives of Front Royal and Warren County received an update Thursday on a request to annex more than 600 acres of land into town limits. Members of Town Council and the Board of Supervisors met for their regular liaison committee meeting to discuss matters of mutual interest.
The Front Royal Limited Partnership last year submitted a request to the Commission on Local Government seeking to add the property to the town. The land lies adjacent to property already owned and planned for development by the private entity.
Town Planning Director Jeremy Camp said Friday the Planning Commission scheduled a work session for May 29 to continue the discussion about the proposal. The commission likely will finalize its recommendation that it would pass to Town Council, Camp said. But that recommendation would be incomplete, Town Manager Steven Burke told the liaison committee.
Burke said the Virginia Department of Transportation will not comment further on the annexation proposal and, as such, the Planning Commission will not be able to provide a complete recommendation on the request as to any evaluation of proffers.
"VDOT has informed us as well as the applicant that they won't be doing a review of the traffic study until after the zoning application is submitted," Camp said Friday.
Road design for the development of the property in the proposal may not match that of streets in the land already in town.
"The traffic with that road and the construction of it are the paramount issues with that project," Camp added. "The key thing I guess with the traffic study is that the road itself is designed more as a subdivision street. It's somewhat of a change in design than what was approved with Front Royal Limited Partnership's rezoning application for the portion of the property in town already.
As County Administrator Douglas Stanley commented at the committee meeting Thursday, the impact of the development on area roads remains uncertain.
"Transportation, particularly when you add commercial into the mix, is so fickle ..." Stanley said Thursday. "It's hard to really get a handle on the true impact of development on the road system until you know what's going to be built and it's still a little bit of a concept now at this stage."
Front Royal Mayor Timothy Darr voiced concern over how much more time the Commission on Local Government may give the county and town to meet an agreement with the limited partnership. The commission has given parties extensions to discuss the proposal and to reach a deal that would eliminate the need to go through the process set by the state.
"I think we need to have one more meeting and if we can't come to a consensus then we need to move on with the original plan as [the partnership] presented it," Darr said.
Also at the committee meeting officials heard an update on the Leach Run Parkway project. Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, said the EDA received 12 proposals from firms seeking to design and engineer the project. McDonald, Burke, Stanley and County Attorney Blair Mitchell met May 9 to review the proposals and eliminated three that did not contain all the information requested. The group could begin interviews next week, McDonald said. Local companies did submit proposals, all of which remain in the running, she said. The committee should have a recommendation in about a month, McDonald said.
Officials also discussed plans to purchase software intended to better connect the town and county Planning and Zoning Departments and building inspections. The Board of Supervisors and county staff at a work session Tuesday saw a presentation of a potential software package. Such a program would help improve customer service and cut the time it takes people to go through the building and zoning application process, officials have said.
The software would cost approximately $200,000 to purchase plus $20,000 each year for maintenance, Stanley said. Given that approximately 20-25 percent of the permits handled by the county come from the town, Stanley estimated Front Royal likely would cover a quarter of the cost of the program.
The committee heard an update on discussions between Darr and Board Chairman Archie Fox regarding the U.S. 522 North Corridor. Darr said he and Fox met May 11 and then the mayor received a document from the county that suggests the town and county's next move on the subject of finding a way that Front Royal can receive compensation for providing utilities to the corridor.
Darr said he passed the document on to council members and they plan to discuss the issue at their meeting Monday night. The mayor advised that once council discusses the matter in the document then he would meet again with Fox.
"At least we're making some headway as far as suggestions are concerned," Darr said. "We haven't made any real headway with an end result but I think we're working at it."
Weeks ago council authorized the mayor to begin meeting with Fox to discuss the matter and to come back in 90 days with an update. Council and supervisors may likely revive the 522 Corridor Committee to resume talks about the compensation issue.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org