Supervisors offer corridor deal to town

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County leaders offered to share the U.S. 340-522 corridor bounty with Front Royal — maybe not as much as the town wants.

The Board of Supervisors responded Tuesday to Town Council’s letter seeking a memorandum of understanding as a compromise on how Front Royal could benefit from the commercially rich corridor. Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve a response to the town’s offer that makes some changes to council’s suggestions seeking to resolve issues of revenue collection out of the corridor.

The town’s suggestion called for the county to provide funding to Front Royal equal to 25 percent of the meals tax and 50 percent of the lodging tax collected from existing commercial utility customers under the original contract. The county would pay Front Royal the equivalent of 50 percent of the meals and lodging taxes for existing and future customers under the updated utility contracts.

Supervisor Tony Carter made the motion to approve the response. Under the board’s offer, the county would pay Front Royal the equivalent of only 25 percent of the meals and lodging taxes as fees referred to as “payment in lieu of taxes.”

“This is a fair offer in response to what the town proposed,” Carter said. “I think it works out well for everybody.”

But Town Councilman Bret Hrbek voiced opposition to part of the county’s proposal pertaining to a future commercial development known as Crooked Run West.

“To bring a resolution to this issue, the final percentage is negotiable,” Hrbek states in an email sent Tuesday afternoon. “However the request to have the tow[n] change its water policy in regards to the potential future Crooked Run II is unacceptable and a non starter.

“We have nothing more then speculation as to what will go there in the future and we do not know what the in-town water needs or other water commitments would be at the time of the development,” Hrbek’s statement continues. “It would be irresponsible for our council to approve an agreement that would require a future council to bypass town code.”

Carter pointed out that the county took responsibility for funding animal control, parks and recreation, fire and rescue, the library and the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority from the town.

“So I think this 25 percent is fair and hopefully we can reach some agreement and move on and everybody starts focusing on more important issues,” Carter said.

Chairman Richard Traczyk echoed Carter’s remarks.

“Hopefully this will smooth relationships where we can proceed with the corridor,” Traczyk said. “We have a lot of potential new business out there with motels and so forth and if we can get a smooth transition into that business mode I think it could be good for both of us.”

PILOT fees can include the equivalent of levies the town collects from user entities, not their customers, such as real estate and personal property taxes, machinery and tools or business profession occupational licenses. Meals and lodging taxes are collected from customers by businesses and remitted to the state or locality.

Under the county’s offer, Front Royal will not collect meals and lodging taxes as part of the PILOT fees from businesses within the corridor agreement boundaries nor in the area of Crooked Run West. The town will maintain or set up water and sewer utility contracts with commercial businesses in the county and collect PILOT fees, excluding meals and lodging taxes, from those customers.

The county instead will give the town revenue in the equivalent of 25 percent of the meals tax and 25 percent of the lodging tax collected during the previous fiscal year, remitted to Front Royal twice a year beginning in December.

Under the deal proposed by the county, the town would not pursue any legal filings to annex property in the corridor agreement boundaries or the future Crooked Run West. Requests for future utility services in the agreement boundaries or Crooked Run West shall not require the county and property owner or occupant to ask for a boundary adjustment to bring the property into the town, under the proposed deal.

Should the town try to charge and collect PILOT fees that include meals and lodging taxes from the businesses within the corridor agreement boundaries or Crooked Run West, or pursue or vote to move forward on any annexation filings in those areas, the county shall stop its appropriations to Front Royal.

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