Council hears support for inspector post

FRONT ROYAL – Community support continues to grow for a town-run building inspections program.

Town Council held a public hearing Monday to receive input on whether or not Front Royal should adopt part or all of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code, and to appoint a building official who could administer and enforce such regulations.

Warren County currently handles the town’s building inspections and permits. Council has discussed the idea at previous work sessions and during budget talks. Council held the public hearing at the request of Councilman Bret Hrbek.

Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker pointed out that council would not begin the process of hiring an inspector until the next fiscal year at the earliest, should members decide to pursue such a program. Parker noted that council has been indecisive about whether or not to hire an economic development coordinator and suggested the town could use funds set aside for that purpose to help offset the cost to start an inspections program.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt noted that Front Royal had a building inspector in the late 1970s but ended the program a few years later, calling it a detriment to the town. Tewalt said reviving a program would likely cost close to $200,000. Tewalt said he opposes creating an inspections program before council gives the idea further study.

Mayor Timothy Darr’s Economic Committee has suggested the town create its own program. Hrbek said the hearing was held to gauge the public’s interest as council looks into such a program.

“My gut feeling tells me what I think is the right thing to do, but I’m looking for the facts to back that up and if the facts don’t back that up then I’m not willing to back it up, either,” Hrbek said.

During the hearing, Alford D. Carter III said he supported a town-run inspections program, adding that council should have “all the armament that they need to move toward the future.” The town should have tools available to tackle blight and a “third party” shouldn’t handle the problem for the town, Carter said. He added that such a program would not duplicate services.

“My opinion is that the town is in control of its own destiny,” Carter said. “Having an advocate that is a building official that can address the issues immediately should be at your disposal.”

Front Royal lacks the power to handle blight and dilapidated buildings. Later at the meeting, council adopted a resolution asking the Virginia General Assembly to enact legislation that would grant towns the same authority as cities to regulate and abate dilapidated, blighted and deteriorated properties.

Former councilman Thomas Conkey echoed Carter. A building inspector employed by the town would work more closely with the Front Royal businesses and the community in general, Conkey said. The town’s Planning and Zoning Department has that kind of relationship with the community, he said.

“We need to have our own [inspections] person so we can have that kind of control over what’s being done in the town,” Conkey said. “I’m not going to throw rocks at anybody in the county but by having a building inspector that reports to you gentlemen, and lady in the future, you’re going to have the ability to actually help encourage new businesses coming into this town, and I think you need to do that.”

The town needs to have the ability to expedite inspections for businesses that want to make changes and delays cost money, George McIntyre said.

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