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Front Royal rejects offer

Free speech concerns prompt a 'no' to county's offer to share taxes from business corridor

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Concerns over free speech spurred Town Council to reject Warren County's offer to share taxes from the U.S. 340-522 corridor.

Warren County officials took a proposed revenue-sharing agreement off the Board of Supervisors meeting agenda Tuesday. Mayor Timothy Darr had relayed to the county that council rejected the offer at its work session Monday.

Supervisors had planned to discuss the proposed offer at their meeting Tuesday and possibly to direct county staff to advertise the memorandum of agreement for a public hearing. The board pulled the item from the agenda at the beginning of its meeting.

Town Manager Steven Burke said Tuesday that council voiced support for the idea of sharing tax revenue with the county.

"There were concerns raised regarding some of the language included in the document and our town attorney is conveying to the county attorney the questions that the town has specific to language and legality of some of the included language," Burke said.

Councilman Bret Hrbek noted by email Tuesday his support for part of the proposed agreement.

"I am very happy that the town and county have reached a consensus that a 50% revenue sharing of the meals tax in the corridor is fair and reasonable," Hrbek stated. "My concern with the correct proposal is 1) I think there are some serious First Amendment issues in regard to not permitting council members from speaking about annexation and 2) it is not binding on future Boards of Supervisors.

"I am comfortable with the revenue sharing proposal if 1) the 1998 agreement is amended to include the revenue sharing and 2) the county agree to begin the process of a developing a systematic program for boundary adjustments in the future modeled after Shenandoah and Culpeper Counties," Hrbek added.

The proposal called for the county to pay the town the equivalent of 25 percent of the meals tax collected from businesses in the U.S. 340-522 North corridor this current fiscal period through June 30, 2014. The county then would pay the town 50 percent of the meals taxes collected from the corridor in each year thereafter.

But the proposed agreement requires that Town Council to not seek annexation of the corridor nor discuss the idea in public.

The proposal may not be dead.

"We are hoping that the town and county can meet at a future date to discuss the concerns as well as hopefully amicably resolve any of the concerns to the satisfaction of both the town and county," Burke said.

The town and county are on separate paths regarding the corridor. Council has authorized the town to hire an attorney to explore Front Royal's options, including annexation. The county has hired Springsted Associates to study the original U.S. 340-522 North Corridor Agreement and any benefits the jurisdictions reap as a result of the deal.

Agreements between Shenandoah County and some of its towns as Hrbek noted dictate future annexations. For instance, Strasburg may annex all or part of the North Shenandoah Industrial Park beginning later this year as part of an agreement reached with the county years ago. Under that deal, Strasburg provided utilities to the park and agreed to not annex all or part of the area for a period of years.

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

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