Warren County bus loop project moving ahead

FRONT ROYAL – Hundreds of families in the Freezeland Road area in Warren County might soon get a safer place to wait for school buses.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday gave an early approval for a project that would add a park and a school-bus turnaround on 3.19 acres of land the county owns off Freezeland Road. Planning Director Taryn Logan compared the proposed Thompson Kiss & Ride to a similar facility built on Dismal Hollow Road in 2011.

The proposed turnaround, shelter and playground are expected to serve more than 1,500 residents in the Linden area and the neighborhoods of Shenandoah Farms, Skyland Estates, Freezeland Manor and Blue Mountain. County officials see this project as a more permanent solution to the problem given the high number of homes in the area as well as the potential for more growth.

Commission members concurred that the county school system needs the turnaround site.

Warren County school bus drivers pick up students at informal stops along Freezeland Road. Parents often park on Freezeland Road to wait for the buses. As Logan pointed out, the situation poses certain hazards.

“We did a map with all the school bus stops that are there right now and, I mean, it’s a dangerous road and there’s a lot right on that road,” Logan said.

The county has not yet funded the proposed project. But Logan pointed out to the commission that the county likely will be applying for grants that could help cover the cost. Other civic groups also might help raise funds to build parts of the facility, Logan said.

“So there are different funding opportunities we’re going to pursue,” Logan said.

Staff in the Parks and Recreation Department also might do some of the work on the site, she added.

County Administrator Doug Stanley explained Thursday the project will be built in phases over time as money becomes available. The county will clear and grade the site and put down gravel for the parking lot. The goal is to build at least the bus drop off this calendar year and to make the facility available by the time school begins.

It took the county about five years to build the Linden facility. The Rotary Club of Linden raised the money to install the playground at the Dismal Hollow Road site, Stanley said. The local Boy Scouts of America troop built the shelter.

“So we would look for similar partnerships to develop the rest of the amenities at the [Thompson] site,” Stanley said.

The commission on Wednesday unanimously decided that the project is “substantially in accord” with the county’s Comprehensive Plan — completing another step in the approval process. The Comprehensive Plan recommends that the county build pocket parks to serve the recreational needs of residents.

The commission will consider the project site plan for approval at its regular meeting in February. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality must review the plans as they pertain to stormwater management before the project can move forward, Logan said.

The county acquired the land for the project from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries with approval by the General Assembly.

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