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Warren County moves on homes site

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County leaders this week took steps to grow the local economy.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted on resolutions allowing the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority to help bring two large-scale businesses to the area.

The identities of those entities remain undisclosed, but EDA Director Jennifer McDonald said Wednesday the initiatives create jobs in the county.

At its regular meeting following a closed session, the board approved a resolution to allow and support the EDA's efforts to buy the Champion Home Builders property, also known as the North American Homes site, at 5210 Strasburg Road. The EDA can buy the property for a price negotiated between $1.6 million and $1.85 million, according to the resolution.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley explained that policy requires the EDA to receive approval from the supervisors for any purchase of more than $100,000. The county also remains responsible for the debt service on the purchased property.

Warren County online tax information shows Champion Home Builders owns nearly 7 acres at 5262 Strasburg Road. The property is assessed at $1.8 million. Champion Home Builders owns an adjacent 10-acre site assessed at $206,000.

"We've been working with the prospect for probably about nine months now and we're finally at a point to where we're ready to move forward to purchase this building in order to get them here," McDonald said Wednesday.

The prospective "end user" plans to enter into a lease with the EDA and have the option to buy the property, McDonald said.

"Sometimes the prospect just comes in and purchases the land directly," McDonald said. "But sometimes, in order to keep their name out of it, we will step in and we will purchase the property for them and either lease it back to them or assign it to them, once they're ready to release who they are."

The EDA can't disclose names, but plans to release the information soon, McDonald said.

North American Homes has remained vacant for several years since the housing construction market dropped and the economy soured. McDonald said the prospect is an industrial user unrelated to housing construction.

The EDA also plans to apply for a state Industrial Revitalization Grant for $600,000. Supervisors passed a resolution to allow the EDA to submit the grant application. The EDA plans to use the money to renovate the Champion Home Builders site.

Also at the meeting, supervisors approved a resolution of support for the EDA to buy 12 acres of land from Cedarville LLC for a price not to exceed $89,500. The property lies off U.S. 522 behind the Kelley Industrial Park. The EDA also has an "end user" lined up for the property but will not disclose the prospect at this time. The user also will lease the property from the EDA.

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

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