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Council OKs 'vision' for Front Royal

By Alex Bridges

A guide for Front Royal's future sparked more debate among town leaders this week, but Town Council approved "Envision Front Royal: A Vision for the Town of Front Royal" on a 5-1 vote after a public hearing.

The Renaissance Planning Group and Herd Planning & Design Ltd. wrote Envision with input, direction and assistance from the town's Planning and Zoning Department, the Planning Commission and the public.

Councilman Bret Hrbek made the motion at Monday's meeting to approve Envision Front Royal that would conclude phase 2 of the six-phase effort to update the town's comprehensive plan. Councilman Daryl Funk made a motion, which failed, to strike seven pages in the document and refer the parts back to the Planning Commission for review.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on Envision and recommended at its meeting Feb. 19 that council approve it, Hrbek said.

He spoke highly of Envision Front Royal, calling it one of the best documents put together for the town. Hrbek said the document does what others had not -- provide specific actions that would finish the town's vision statement. Councilman Thomas Sayre said the document does not say the town definitely would take the actions suggested by the plan. Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker said the comprehensive plan that outlines the town's future needs would still need to come back to council for a final approval.

During the public hearing Front Royal resident George McIntyre spoke about the need for the community to take the Envision plan and, with direction from the town, move forward with the document's suggestions for the future.

Ron Llewellyn lauded council for its work on planning the town's future. Llewellyn used the time to talk about two properties on Shenandoah Avenue that he owners -- a former doctor's office and Skyline Motors -- that will be affected by the South Fork Bridge replacement project underway by the Virginia Department of Transportation. He said he became aware of a change in the project that called for a median in the middle of Shenandoah Avenue. He said that would block access to his properties and makes it "almost impossible" to develop the properties. He said he envisions a hotel or motel in the back of the 14-acre site.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt said town leaders had not heard from VDOT about the median. Mayor Timothy Darr told Llewellyn council would discuss his concerns at a work session.

Also at the meeting, council approved a voluntary settlement agreement between the town and Warren County pertaining to the annexation of 605 acres owned by the Front Royal Limited Partnership. The approval comes with the condition that the property owner first record the covenant that outlines requirements related to the land's future development. Attorneys for the town and county, after much discussion by leaders of both jurisdictions, drafted the covenant.

Town Attorney Douglas Napier said the Front Royal Limited Partnership would be bound by the covenants once recorded.

Tewalt said he wouldn't support the motion until the developer has signed the covenant. Napier said Darr won't sign the agreement until the developer has signed it. The vote on the motion would not be valid if the developer does not record the covenant.

Hrbek said that any delays by the town to approve the agreement could hurt the developer financially. Parker asked Napier if council could delay action to give the developer time to uphold its responsibility by signing and recording the covenant. Napier said council could take that course. However, Parker's motion to postpone action to May 12 failed 4-3. The motion to approve the agreement passed 5-1. A three-judge panel will convene in the county circuit court to consider the agreement.

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

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