Town issues brochure for corridor businesses

Who benefits or loses most from the U.S. 340-522 North Corridor remains a hotly debated issue between Warren County and Front Royal.

But, as leaders on both sides consider another proposed deal over money generated by the commercially rich corridor, the town issued a guide for proprietors and property owners this week on how Front Royal supplies water and sewer service to the area and the prices users pay.

Customers in the corridor receive utilities at in-town rates through Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) contracts per an agreement between Front Royal and the county. The town then receives the revenue from the PILOT fees.

Town Manager Steve Burke said proprietors moving businesses into the corridor typically need an explanation about the program. The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority helped create the brochure to better explain the PILOT fees program, Burke said.

“Basically, it was an opportunity for the town to provide an educational pamphlet … so that [customers] would have a better understanding of the PILOT program, have a general understanding of the PILOT contract that the town has them execute to become a utility customer and, hopefully, to all the county and EDA to be in a better position to market the corridor,” Burke said.

The brochure wasn’t created in response to the ongoing debates among Town Council members and the Board of Supervisors over whether or not Front Royal should be able to collect more money from the businesses in the corridor. Burke said town officials had been discussing the development of the brochure with the EDA and Warren County representatives.

Council recently offered to the county a compromise that would allow the town to collect more revenue from the corridor. The Board of Supervisors has not discussed the deal openly.

“The timing works out because part of the compromise that the town is putting forward would be to hopefully allow the county to continue develop commercially and this would just be a tool that would allow them to better communicate with those new businesses,” Burke said.

In the past, some new customers were not aware they needed to complete the contract with the town before setting up service, Burke said. As a result, the town and the customer had to act quickly to establish the service in time for the business to open, he recalled.

The town distributed copies of the brochure to the county and the EDA and made the Rt. 522 Corridor Utility Guide available on the website at www.frontroyalva.com. The brochure explains the process through which prospective customers must go to ultimately receive utility service at the in-town rates.

In the 1980s, Front Royal extended water and sewer service into the corridor to help spur commercial and industrial development that would generate revenue Warren County needed to improve its school system.

An agreement reached in 1998 between the town and county, and legislation put in place by the Virginia General Assembly, allows Front Royal to collect PILOT fees identified in the utility contracts with corridor customers. Front Royal can collect as part of the bill the equivalent of various taxes it would normally assess to businesses in town limits.

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