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State takes up Front Royal annexation

By Alex Bridges

A major boundary shift proposed for Front Royal faces a significant step next week.

The Front Royal Limited Partnership seeks to bring 604 acres of land in Warren County into the town. A voluntary settlement agreement endorsed by elected officials in Front Royal and Warren County with the partnership outlines the boundary adjustment and issues related to the annexation, such as future development of the property.

David Vazzana and the Front Royal Limited Partnership filed a request with the commission in the fall 2012 seeking to annex the property located north of Happy Creek Road, south of Interstate 66, east of the Shenandoah River and west of Shenandoah Shores Road. The agreement limits future development of the property to 818 single-family dwelling units.

The Commission on Local Government meets Monday to consider and adopt its advisory report on the proposed voluntary settlement agreement. Once the commission issues its report, county and town officials must consider incorporating any changes suggested by the agency, then re-adopt the agreement, according to information from Amanda Pearson, public relations director of the Department of Housing and Community Development.

A special panel of three judges will meet to consider the agreement. An order entered by the panel will put the agreement into effect. When such a panel plans to meet remains undetermined, Pearson said.

The commission held a public hearing on the voluntary settlement agreement in November, during which the agency collected comments and input from residents and other people interested in the matter.

Residents and property owners expressed concerns with the future development of the property -- specifically the impact the construction of more than 800 homes would have on the area roads, water and sewer services.

Vazzana and the partnership touted the annexation as a way to build an east-west connector that has long been considered as a transportation improvement for the area. But the development's impact on the existing Marys Shady Lane -- the only access route for most residents in the area of the annexation property -- also sparked concern. A traffic study performed by Gorove/Slade Associates at the request of the partnership indicated the eventual need to close Marys Shady Lane. Vazzana said Marys Shady Lane would close once the east-west connector is built. The connector would give residents living north of Happy Creek Road with two ways to go in and out of the area rather than the single access route.

Former Front Royal Mayor Stan Brooks criticized the annexation when he spoke at the hearing. Brooks said the east-west connector has not been examined nor designed. Brooks noted that the connector is already included in the development of property inside the town limits and adjacent to the land considered in the boundary adjustment so annexation is not necessary. Brooks acknowledged the potential benefit to the town in the way of taxes and utility fees.

But, as Brooks noted, no analysis has been conducted to determine the overall impact of development of the entire property owned by the Front Royal Limited Partnership.

Speakers and people in the audience were advised that if the voluntary settlement agreement is approved and the lines adjusted, the Front Royal Limited Partnership must still go through the town's process to rezone the 604 acres before any development can occur. During the rezoning process, residents and property owners would have the opportunity to express their concerns about future development of the property.

Development of the property in the annexation remains far off and highly dependent on the economy and housing market, Vazzana has said on several occasions.

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

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