Town counters Warren County’s corridor offer

FRONT ROYAL — Town Council countered Warren County’s offer to share revenue from the U.S. 340-522 corridor north of Front Royal.

Council on Monday voted 6-0 on a motion to authorize Town Manager Steve Burke to send a memorandum of agreement compromise for the payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, meals and lodging levies to County Administrator Doug Stanley. The compromise agreement would include a cost-sharing equivalent of 37 percent of the meals and lodging taxes collected by the county.

The agreement would exclude terms pertaining to the future, 147-acre Crooked Run West development. As stated in the motion, the town has no information or development plan for Crooked Run West with which to evaluate the site’s demands for water and sewer service. Instead, as the motion notes, the town will consider Crooked Run West through its out-of-town utility policy when a development plan is submitted.

Council met in closed session toward the end of its regular meeting to discuss the county Board of Supervisors’ recent counter offer to the town’s proposed memorandum of agreement. The town originally asked the county for the equivalent of 50 percent of the meals and lodging tax revenue collected from certain future businesses in the corridor.

Council members made no comments about the offer before the vote. Mayor Tim Darr said after the meeting that council had concerns about the county’s desire to keep Crooked Run West out of the future revenue picture.

“The issue is that we don’t know what their plans are for that,” Darr said, adding that they don’t want to “put a future council in a bind.”

Also at the meeting, Town Council gave preliminary support for a slight increase in the real estate tax rate. Council voted 4-2 on the first reading to set the tax levies at various rates. No one spoke at the public hearing held on the tax rates. Council has to act on a second reading of the rates for the levies to go into effect.

The real estate tax rate will stay at 13 cents per $100 of assessed value. However, the recent countywide real estate reassessment showed property values in town increased by about 3 percent on average. The 13-cent rate represents an increase of ¼ of a penny per $100 of assessed value.

Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger and Councilman Daryl Funk voted against the motion to set the rates.

“I don’t see a need to raise taxes and I did race on a platform promising not to raise taxes and, while there certainly might be scenarios out there where I might consider it, I don’t consider this one of those so I will be voting against this tonight,” Funk said.

Town Manager Steve Burke said that Front Royal typically collects about $1 million from real estate tax revenue. The ¼ of a penny increase will bring about $20,000 more in revenue to the town, Burke said.

The following tax levies also will remain the same: personal property at 64 cents, machinery and tools at 64 cents, mobile homes at 13 cents.

Also at the meeting, council:

• Held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance amendment that would allow one additional sandwich board sign for businesses under certain specifications. No one spoke during the hearing. Council voted 6-0 to establish the ordinance amendment on its first reading. Council must vote on a second reading of the ordinance to enact the new regulations.

• Held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance amendment that establishes three tourism zones for the purpose of promoting business growth by offering incentives to encourage economic development that will attract visitors and increase tax revenue. No one spoke during the hearing. Council voted 6-0 to approve the ordinance amendment on its first reading.

• Held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance to adopt policy guidelines pursuant to the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002. The ordinance allows the town to create public-private partnerships for the development of projects for public use. No one spoke during the hearing. Council voted 6-0 to approve the ordinance on its first reading.

• Voted 6-0 to approve the hiring of a part-time, community resource officer for the Front Royal Police Department at a cost of $12,000 for the remainder of the fiscal budget year.

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