Council delays vote on program

FRONT ROYAL — Town Council put off endorsing a local building inspections program that would require a tax increase next year to run.

Council voted 6-0 on Monday to table a resolution that would call for Town Manager Steve Burke to set up a program for Front Royal in the fiscal 2016 budget. The resolution notes that council and Mayor Timothy Darr also would direct Burke to advertise a real estate tax rate of 15 cents per $100 of the assessed value — an increase from 13 cents — to fund the program.

Councilman Bret Hrbek made the motion to postpone action on the resolution until their March 23 meeting.

“I think there’s a lot of questions that several of us up here still have,” Hrbek said. “We don’t have the full data that we would need to make an informed decision, specifically a proposed budget expense, income and some other things that are going on across the state in regards to town our size having their own departments.

“So I would ask for that courtesy so we can get that information to make a more informed and a better decision,” Hrbek added.

Councilman Daryl Funk said he wished they had decided at a previous work session to delay a vote rather than to put the resolution on a regular meeting agenda. Funk pointed out that several people interested in the matter were in attendance at the meeting expecting to see council take a vote.

Warren County has handled building inspections and the enforcement of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code for the town since 1983. Council endorsed the mission statement of Darr’s Economic Committee on July 28, which included establishing a town building inspection program. Several people spoke in favor of the idea when council asked for input on Dec. 8. The Planning Commission voted 3-1 on Jan. 21 to adopt a resolution that supports council should they choose to set up the program.

Mike McCool, who serves on the mayor’s committee, spoke earlier in the meeting in support of the creation of an inspections program. McCool said such a program would give council a tool to identify “a problem in that position.”

“Think about the effect that that position has on all the development in our town and to bring it up that we need one, even though the county’s been providing it forever, it does indicate that there’s a serious problem in that area, and if you talk to builders and anyone else doing any kind of construction and homeowners that they know that’s really a thorn in their side,” McCool said.

While the town would need to spend money to set up the program, McCool warned council about the revenue Front Royal could lose if developers pull away for fear of working with county inspectors. McCool suggested council delay action on the matter if they did not feel ready to vote.

In other action, council voted 4-2 to approve on second and final readings, two rezoning applications related to the future Warren County middle school. Councilmen Bret Hrbek and Eugene Tewalt voted against the motions to approve the rezoning requests. Hrbek and Tewalt said they support the school system. Hrbek said his concerns about whether or not the town would bear the cost of the school’s impact on the traffic when expanded. Tewalt said he had concerns about safety around the school.

Warren County asked that the town rezone 4.71 acres of land near the planned Leach Run Parkway from agriculture and residential use. The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority asked that the town rezone 19.31 acres from suburban residential and agriculture use to residential.

Also at the meeting, council:

• Voted 5-1 to award a contract to MSW Consultants, up to $20,000, for services to assist the Department of Environmental Services in the management of solid-waste collection and disposal in the most cost-effective matter. Tewalt voted against the motion and argued the town could handle the issue on its own without a consultant.

• Voted 5-1 to grant a request by Aaron Hike for a waiver from the sidewalk installation requirement on two lots he plans to develop on West 15th Street. Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger voted against the request, pointing out that, while the town granted waivers for all other lots near Hike’s, she felt a sidewalk serving that street should begin somewhere.

• Voted 6-0 to approve a proclamation declaring February as Youth Art Month, at the request of Andrea Stuart, president of the Blue Ridge Region Art Education Association

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