Action on fortuneteller law delayed until after election

By Alex Bridges

Front Royal Town Council won’t take up the regulation of fortunetelling until after Election Day on Tuesday.

Planning Director Jeremy Camp said Thursday that, to his knowledge, Town Council has not scheduled any time to continue the discussion on the subject. Town Council has not referred the matter to the Planning Commission as one councilman has suggested.

Council last discussed potential changes to the town code section related to regulating fortunetelling at a work session in mid August. Town Attorney Douglas Napier recommended that council change some of the language in the code section and to reduce the business license fee from $400 to $300.

Mayor Timothy Darr and Town Manager Steve Burke usually draft the meeting and work session agendas. But given that council has only a few meetings left this calendar year, and that members would need to hold a public hearing and vote on the proposed changes, it’s likely they may not continue their discussion until after Jan. 1.

Most of the seven candidates running for seats on Town Council said Thursday they did not feel the delay was a political maneuver.

Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker said he understood council members postponed action because they had “more pressing matters” and did not do it for political reasons. Parker added that he didn’t think anyone had applied for a fortuneteller’s license.

Linda J. Allen, Alford D. Carter III, Bebhinn C. Egger, John P. Connolly, Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker, Robert M. Tennett Jr. and Councilman Hollis L. Tharpe weighed in on the delay:

Allen: “I honestly don’t know. I thought they would take it up right away but it’s caused such a controversy.”

Carter: “Why it was delayed? Where it fell on the schedule — none of that really has any bearing on the case.”

Connolly: “I couldn’t say with any accuracy whether it’s a political thing or not, the decision to delay it.”

Egger: “I don’t really know why the council did what they did, but it could have been a maneuver to delay it so it sort of dies down a little bit.”

Parker: “To my knowledge, no it’s not any politics being played with it or being left to hang out there because of an election or anything else.”

Tennett: “I don’t know about that. It could be that the town just wanted to perceive it as a business and that’s why they haven’t brought it back.”

Tharpe: “I don’t know why they didn’t put it back on the agenda. I know it’s not a hot issue that needs to pay attention to right away.”

Town Councilman Thomas H. Sayre recommended at the work session that council refer the proposed changes to the Planning Commission because he said he felt the town should look at the code section in the context of zoning rules and limiting the practice as a business in a certain district. At the work session, several councilmen said they didn’t feel the code section had anything to do with zoning. Others said they didn’t feel one way or the other about Sayre’s suggestion.

The town must schedule a public hearing and vote on the matter to amend the code section.

The week prior to the work session, council voted 4-3 to strike an old section of the code that Napier had advised conflicts with state law allowing the practice. Opponents of removing the ban, which Napier also said the town has never enforced, would draw undesired businesses and practitioners of the “black arts” to Front Royal. Dozens of people spoke at the public hearing on the repeal and again at the meeting before council took action to strike the section.

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