Report: Warren County growing slow and steady

Warren County saw a 1.1 percent growth in population and a 0.53 percent growth in approved housing units in 2014, according to a report released by the Planning Commission.

In the 2014 Warren County Planning Commission annual report, the county gained 427 new residents and 87 new houses, five more than 2013. The county issued 337 building permits, totaling about $23.57 million in project value and collected $31,542 in revenue from permits, rezoning request and other applications.

County Administrator Doug Stanley said the report reflects the activities of the Planning Commission and department.

“The Planning Commission and staff have been very busy on a number of different projects this year,” Stanley said. “Some of it has been residential, others commercial stuff and things of governmental nature.”

Stanley said the commission worked hard to finalize zoning regulations for the Dominion Power Station and the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, “which represent two of the largest projects ever constructed in our community.”

He also said from a county administrator’s standpoint, the report could give indications of the county’s economic vitality through population gains, new home starts and rezoning activity. Stanley said the slow growth in new home builds is natural for the economy.

“The United States economy doesn’t boom every year and it doesn’t bust every year,” Stanley said. “We knew coming out of the recession [it] wasn’t going to be a quick comeback … we expected moderate growth.”

In the Warren County comprehensive plan, the target goal for housing growth is no more than 3 percent per year. Taryn Logan, county planning director, said the decision to set the growth at that rate was in 2004, when new home housing permits reached 425.

“The Planning Commission stepped back, looked at the comprehensive plan and that growth rate was 2.8 percent,” Logan said. “They felt like that rate was all they could handle.”

Logan said this year’s growth rate of 0.53 percent is reflective of growth since the rate bottomed out in 2010.

“I don’t expect to see a big jump in new home starts, just the steady increase we’ve seen over the last couple years,” Logan said. “So far this year, we’ve seen about the same level of activity.”

The highest concentration of new home builds was in the Shenandoah Farms subdivision near Linden, with 18 houses constructed in 2014. Logan said the location of housing construction in the county has shifted from Front Royal to the county proper over the years.

“In the 1980s, more people lived in Front Royal than the county, but we’ve seen a shift to the county because more people want to live on 2 to 5 acre lots,” Logan said. “Also, for people commuting east to the city for work, living in Linden is more convenient.”

The Board of Supervisors processed 23 new conditional use permits in 2014, 12 of which were for short-term tourist rentals, five of which were denied. Logan said the reason for so many permit applications last year was due to a backlog in reviewing applications.

“Our short term tourist rental ordinance came into effect in 2012,” Logan said. “Last year we were wrapping up processing the applications.”

Other findings in the report included:

  • There were four requests to create class A subdivisions, which are parcels of land broken into four lots or less. Three were approved and one was pending at the time of the report.
  • The Planning Commission approved 35 lot consolidation requests, consolidating 97 lots to 36 lots.
  • Seven zoning text amendment requests were made to the Planning Commission, with six being approved and one pending at the time of the report.
  • One rezoning request came before the commission and was denied.
  • Two subdivision variances came before the commission, with one approved and the other pending at the board of supervisors level.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com