Front Royal to consider former Avtex site fee waiver
By Alex Bridges
Front Royal might give development efforts at the former Avtex site a small push this week.
Town Council plans to consider at its meeting today a request by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority to waive fees associated with developing the site.
Executive Director Jennifer McDonald also has asked that the town consider waiving the fees charged to developers for a site plan and subdivision request for Lot 6 in the site. McDonald explained that the EDA plans to turn the individual lot near the authority’s office building into an alternative entrance to the site.
If granted, Front Royal would waive approximately $10,000-$12,000 in fees normally charged to developers who request to rezone or subdivide properties, or submit site plans for projects, Town Manager Steve Burke explained Friday.
“We typically do not waive the fees … because it’s typically for private development,” Burke said. “However, since this is a special circumstance with it being the former superfund site, council will consider waiving the fees.”
Councilman Bret Hrbek said the waiver would represent a small investment with a much larger return.
“I don’t have any heartburn about helping the EDA out on this project,” Hrbek said.
Asked if he felt granting the waiver would come across as unfair to developers of property elsewhere, Hrbek noted that the town has made deals previously. He cited development in the U.S. 340-522 corridor as an example of the town making a deal that results in a greater return through jobs created and tax revenue.
“It’s not unusual when it’s a significant enough project to justify the [waiver],” Hrbek said.
The Environmental Protection Agency handed over interest in the Avtex property to the EDA in September after years of work to clean up the Superfund site.
The EDA recently filed an application with the Planning and Zoning Department seeking to rezone the roughly 160 acres held by the authority from industrial use to the mixed-campus use designation, Burke said. The zoning district allows commercial and some light industrial development.
“The zoning was established primarily for redevelopment of the Avtex site so that it would allow the EDA as broad as a scope of potential development opportunities as possible,” Burke said.
The EDA first considered seeking the waivers in 2008, McDonald recalled, but decided to wait until after the EPA released the Avtex site to make the request.
The waivers, if granted, would not include any other fees the town requires of future, private developers of the site.
“I think we see it as an investment in the redevelopment of the site,” Burke said.
Council could waive the fees by adopting a resolution stating that members support the EDA’s efforts to develop the property as well as acknowledges the authority’s work to oversee the remediation of the former Avtex site and to obtain clearance from the Environmental Protection Agency for its redevelopment.
The Planning Commission and Town Council will have to consider the rezoning application and could hold either two public hearings or one joint hearing.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org