Front Royal council splits over corridor issue

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — Town leaders split Monday over whether to ask the Planning Commission to include the U.S. 340-522 Corridor in the Comprehensive Plan update.

Town Council voted 3-3 on a motion to refer the suggestion to the panel. Councilmen Eugene Tewalt, Bret Hrbek and Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker voted in favor of the referral. Councilmen Daryl Funk, Thomas Sayre and Hollis Tharpe voted against the motion.

Mayor Timothy Darr broke the tie by voting in favor of referring the matter to the commission. Darr said he thinks the Planning Commission should consider the corridor in its work on the town’s plan. Darr added that the panel could decide not to include the corridor in its update.

“There’s no written rules, no written laws,” Darr said. “It’s a plan that the town guides itself by, uses for its development and research in preparing to move the town forward in future years.”

Funk suggested that town leaders discuss the matter first with Warren County supervisors because the corridor lies outside Front Royal limits.

“I think that for this provision to have any real meaning or purpose that it has to be a unified, comprehensive plan for the area,” Funk said. “I think this is something that if we’re gonna get a real chance of succeeding we should’ve gone to the county first rather than we want to start planning in the corridor.”

Parker noted that he brought the issue to council and said that the current Comprehensive Plan makes reference to the development of the U.S. 340-522 Commercial and Industrial Corridor. However, the plan does not have a separate section for the corridor.

“Again, this would have no binding effect on the corridor, and if the Planning Commission felt that it should, they could re-approach us and ask us to approach the county,” Parker said.

Hrbek said that his understanding is that the town could only reference the corridor in the planning document. Funk said it did not appear that the town would be limited to just referencing the corridor.

Sayre asked if the attorney hired by the town had recommended council take this action. Sayre had opposed allocating $100,000 for the annexation attorney. Town Attorney Douglas Napier said the lawyer hired to study the potential annexation of the corridor had not yet finished his work. Sayre then noted his opposition to the motion, warning that the commission could get embroiled in a legal battle should one arise.

Parker said the motion doesn’t involve annexation and that the commission would have say over whether or not the corridor appears in the Comprehensive Plan.

Just before voting on the corridor matter, council voted 5-1 to refer to the Planning Commission a suggestion to include the Front Royal Limited Partnership property and the U.S. 340-522 North Corridor in the town’s work on the update to the Comprehensive Plan.

Funk said that Front Royal leaders should seek an endorsement from the Warren County Board of Supervisors because the Front Royal Limited Partnership property does not lie within town limits. Funk said the town-county liaison committee should have time to address both issues.

Parker called Funk’s move a “delay tactic.” Parker said that he only wanted the Planning Commission to consider including the Front Royal Limited Partnership property in their work on the Comprehensive Plan. Parker said that including the corridor in the Comprehensive Plan update would not be binding.

Funk’s motion failed by a 5-1 vote. The original motion to refer the item to the Planning Commission passed 5-1.

In other action, council:

  • Heard from resident Bebhinn Egger during the public comment period that she intends to run for a seat on council. The 26-year-old violinist said she recently began collecting signatures that would allow her to appear on the ballot in November. Many council members signed her petition after the meeting.
  • Voted to take $95,000 from reserves to pay for snow removal costs beyond the budgeted $75,000. Information provided by the town showed that so far the town has amassed snow-removal expenses of $90,184. The town awaits an outstanding invoice of $15,933 and an order of salt for $23,364 that has not yet been delivered. The town contracted snow removal for the most recent storm Feb. 13-16 that cost $16,800. The town also has ordered another round of salt for $23,718.98.
  • Approved a resolution pertaining to land-use permit regulations with the Virginia Department of Transportation
  • Authorized the town police department to buy three vehicles at a cost of $79,723.96. The new vehicles replace older equipment that will be either assigned to other officers or sold at auction. Each of the three vehicles to be replaced and sold at auction has more than 100,000 miles.
  • Approved an amendment to the current budget to pay English Construction $60,000 for upgrades and other work pertaining to roof leaks and drainage at the town’s water treatment plant

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