Parkway project moving ahead

FRONT ROYAL – Work on the long-awaited Leach Run Parkway project continues to move forward.

The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s Board of Directors heard updates on the project at its meeting Friday and also took action on conveying land for a new middle school that the county will build along the parkway.

The north-south route connects Happy Creek Road with Va. 55 (John Marshall Highway). The parkway is designed as a four-lane highway divided by a median.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley gave a brief update on the project and a possible time frame to move to the next step.

“I think we’re all hoping, keeping our fingers crossed, that we can get this thing out to bid here in the next month or two,” Stanley said.

The EDA has spent $3.64 million to buy approximately 61 acres in the area of the parkway route. Of that land, the EDA bought approximately 15.53 acres for the parkway itself and 27 acres for the future, second middle school. The authority spent $10,500 for temporary construction easements for the parkway project.

The EDA board voted to adopt a resolution stating its intent to sell the land to Warren County for $1.54 million. The county already owns about 5 acres, which it bought from Rutherford Homes to be used for the school project. County Attorney Blair Mitchell explained that the EDA determined an amount it would pay per acre for the parcels that make up the site.

A two-step process calls for the county to acquire approximately 27 acres from the EDA by paying the same, per-acre cost that the authority paid for the property from the previous owners. Virginia law does not require that the county hold a public hearing to buy land from the EDA. However, the county must hold a public hearing on the proposed transfer of the combined 32 acres to the School Board to make sure no serious or reasonable objections to the transfer exist, Mitchell has explained.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss the land purchase for the middle school at its meeting Tuesday and authorize the county to hold the public hearing on the proposed transfer.

In other project news, Town Manager Steve Burke told the EDA board that Front Royal is committed to working with the authority and the county on the extension of Main Street into the Avtex site. The town will work with EDA staff to pursue any grant opportunities that would help cover the cost of the Main Street extension.

McDonald advised the board that the Environmental Protection Agency has required the EDA to devise a safety plan for the Avtex site. The EDA needs to submit the plan by the end of March.

“We have to prove to them that we have a way out of the site if some disaster was to happen and so we’re working on putting that together,” McDonald said.

Also at the Avtex site, the EDA is working on the application to establish the proposed museum as a nonprofit entity. The Internal Revenue Service cannot find the documents McDonald said she submitted last year so the EDA had to restart the process. FMC, the firm that led the cleanup of the Avtex site, gave the EDA $5,000 toward the museum project.

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