Council puts off vote on development rules

Building community representatives spoke out Monday against proposed changes to Front Royal’s development rules.

Town Council, in turn, decided to delay action on a rewrite of Front Royal’s subdivision and land development ordinance after holding a public hearing on the proposed update of the regulations. Council voted 6-0 to table action on the first reading of the motion to adopt the updated ordinance to April 13.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt defended his proposed changes to the ordinance that provoked vocal opposition. Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger questioned the requirement for wider streets, saying narrower roads are safer for pedestrians.

Chris Ramsey spoke against the additional regulation in the ordinance requiring developers to build structures 2 feet above the centerline grade of the fronting street. Ramsey, who owns a construction company in town, said he was confused as to why Front Royal would extend its authority beyond the right of way. While Ramsey acknowledged the need of the town to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents, he said this proposed requirement doesn’t meet that litmus test. The section as proposed places an undue hardship on anyone seeking a permit to build a home on a sloped lot, Ramsey said.

Bill Barnett works as a consultant with the Front Royal Limited Partnership – the owner of 604 acres the town recently annexed from Warren County and 150 acres already in the corporate limits and zoned for development. The rewrite features some major changes to the development rules that would affect the town for decades, including the proposed standards for road designs, Barnett said. If adopted, the proposal would require builders to construct wider roads and sidewalks in developments. While a few communities are increasing their sidewalk width rules, none are requiring wider streets, Barnett said.

Wider streets and sidewalks increase the amount of impervious surface and the amount of stormwater runoff the town would need to handle, Barnett said. By his calculation, the proposed rule would add 6 feet of paved surface to a development. A five mile road in a subdivision would create an additional 3.6 acres of impervious space, Barnett said.

David Vazzana, with the Front Royal Limited Partnership, went further to say that the proposed changes are not recommended by the town’s Comprehensive Plan. The changes also go against the idea of pursuing more environmentally friendly development techniques, Vazzana said. The developer advised he likely would file variance requests to most of the requirements as the company moves forward to build on their land.

Studies also show that 36-foot streets are the most dangerous and designed for 15,000 vehicle trips per day, Vazzana said.

“In my opinion, it’s not about safety; it’s an over-reach …” Vazzana said.

The developer also warned that the town’s cost to maintain the roads and sidewalks would increase significantly under the proposed requirements in new construction projects.

Land-use planner and landscape architect Joe Dugan also works as a consultant with the Front Royal Limited Partnership. Dugan warned that the proposed requirements likely will drive developers away from Front Royal.

But town resident Eva Challis said she’s concerned about narrow streets and keeping them wide enough for large vehicles, especially buses and fire trucks. Challis suggested leaving farmland undeveloped to handle worries over stormwater runoff from pavement.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or

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