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Council to consider collecting fees in U.S. 340-522 corridor

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- The town could start collecting more money from some businesses in the U.S. 340-522 corridor next year.

Town Council plans to consider a resolution pertaining to contracts Front Royal has with some restaurant and motel/hotel utility customers in the corridor. The town already receives payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOT fees, from businesses as part of an annexation settlement agreement.

Council continued its discussion at a work session Tuesday about reversing a previous decision not to collect the PILOT fees. Meals and lodging taxes are paid by the customers, collected by the business and sent to the town.

A resolution adopted a few years ago barred the town from collecting PILOT fees in the equivalent of meals and lodging taxes. Now the current leadership might add a section to the resolution that gives council the right to set levies as allowed in the utility contracts the town has with some of the businesses. The town could reinstate the meals and lodging tax components of the PILOT fees charged to some businesses in the corridor.

Council and town officials will develop a letter outlining the justification and need to reestablish the meals and lodging tax component of the agreements related to the payments in lieu of taxes. Leaders would need to define how the town would spend the new money on commercial incentives and to determine if Front Royal can provide utility relief for part of the meals tax collected.

A proposed timeline shows town officials would meet with the Economic Development Authority in a few weeks and then with affected restaurants soon after. Council would hold a public information meeting in mid October and the vote on the resolution later that month. The town would begin collecting revenue Jan. 1.

Restaurants operating under older contracts would not be affected by the change.

Council also plans to move forward on an effort to bring residential dwellings with more than one unit into compliance with the town's regulations for water meters. Town staff members propose that they notify property owners about the compliance problem, place the notifications in the appropriate land records and provide a three-year window for owners to bring the properties into compliance.

Town staff members have identified 12 properties not in compliance with multiple units using one meter and submeters.

Owners of non-compliant properties would receive notification of the situation. The town would work with the owners to bring the properties into compliance. Owners would pay the connection fees as established in 1985 -- $1,450 for water and $1,350 for sewer service -- far less than the current levies.

Mayor Timothy Darr voiced concern that some property owners may decline to participate in the town's program. Darr suggested that the town put a lien on the property that the owner does not choose to participate in the program.

"Our goal is to try to make everybody become compliant," Darr said. "So, if we don't put an end at it, we're never going to be able to get them to become compliant.

"If they choose not to become compliant then they can pay the enormous amount at the end of the day because when they go to sell the property, the new homeowner coming in should not be stuck with this same problem," Darr added.

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

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