By Ryan Cornell
FRONT ROYAL -- Business owners, town officials and concerned residents of Front Royal discussed issues, the community development director position and ideas for future improvements at a business forum this week.
Business owner Mike McCool voiced his concerns about the town becoming too dense during the meeting held Thursday at the Front Royal Administration Building.
"We end up with parking lots that are too small for cars and you can't get down the street with a fire truck because they've narrowed the roads," he said.
Planning Commission member William Kline said he would like to see more convenient public parking areas in Downtown Front Royal.
"If you don't have the parking areas that are convenient, people are going to drive past to go to the big box stores," he said.
Many of the business owners at the forum agreed that the brown public parking signs in town were difficult to spot.
McCool expressed his disapproval of stores posting "no parking" or "no public restrooms" signs during events.
"To me it's like the most anti-tourism, the most anti-visitor attitude businesses can have," he said.
Kline introduced the idea of installing a sign in downtown Front Royal that would map out its small businesses for visitors.
"They have the same thing when you walk into a mall," he said. "Right at the entrance when you walk in is a directory."
Town Manager Steve Burke said the concept of a directory for these businesses has been discussed for years, but the turnover rate of businesses poses a problem
"It would have to be one that you open up and slide in, but those have to have a lock on it," he said. "That means it's easily accessible for those who don't have a key to break it open and monkey with it."
He said the town will consider replacing the banners overlooking Royal Avenue with a digital sign at its budget meeting. The electronic signs would reduce the marketing costs for small businesses and eliminate the time and effort needed for crews to install the banners, he said.
Burke said the Town Council is continuing to accept applications for its community development director position. He said between 15 and 18 interested candidates have applied to the job with their letters of interest, resumes and references. He added that they will continue reviewing candidates and accepting applications until the position is filled.
Business owner Lisa Parker said the future community development director could be tasked with creating a community analysis of Front Royal, examining the wants of local residents and how they match the needs of small businesses.
"We needed a coffee place and we got one," she said. "It's along those lines."
The next business forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 20.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org