Council backs building, tree rules

FRONT ROYAL – Town Council approved new guidelines Monday for future development in Front Royal.

Council voted 4-2 to approve an ordinance on its second reading to update the chapter in the town code pertaining to subdivision and land development. The changes include requiring developers to build streets to certain minimum widths. Council at its previous meeting removed a recommended change that would have required builders to construct homes above the street grade.

Councilman Bret Hrbek and Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger voted against the motion to approve the ordinance. Egger voiced concerns about the impact the regulations would have on development in town. Egger said she didn’t want to see more neighborhoods built to the town’s standards, specifically its street widths.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt pointed out that the town has worked on the regulations for years and thanked the Planning Commission and the Planning Department for their efforts.

Adoption of the subdivision and land development ordinance is contingent on the final approvals of changes to town code chapters on zoning and urban forestry, the latter of which council approved by a vote of 5-1 on its first reading at the meeting.

Ron Perlik and David Means spoke at the public hearing held on the proposed changes to the urban forestry regulations.

Perlik, a certified arborist and member of the Front Royal-Warren County Tree Stewards, reminded council that the town recently celebrated its 16th year as a Tree City USA community. Additionally, the town is designated as a silver community, meaning that it has gone beyond the requirements to be a Tree City USA community. Perlik credited council, the Tree Stewards, the Urban Forestry Advisory Commission, the Beautification Committee of Front Royal along with groups and individuals who recognized the value of the town’s trees.

“This ordinance is a forward-thinking document that will help shape our community and our quality of life for years to come,” Perlik said.

The proposed changes to the tree ordinance come after several years of work by various professionals who gave their input into the update of the urban forestry regulations.

Town Manager Steve Burke and Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp explained after the meeting that the updated ordinance brings landscaping regulations under one chapter. Aside from streamlining the language, the updated ordinance does regulate how many trees a developer must include in their project. The ordinance now creates a tree bank under which a developer who cannot plant as many trees as required in a project can put the remainder of the trees in the bank for planting elsewhere in town.

Means, also a member of the Tree Stewards, credited former Planning Commission Chairman David Gushee with getting the town to revisit tree ordinance five years ago.

“This is a big moment and I’m so encouraged to see that it’s come to the table and look for your positive input or suggestions … ,” Means said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction and I really appreciate this moment.”

Councilman Daryl Funk voted against the motion to adopt the tree ordinance. Funk thanked the groups that work to take care of the town’s trees. Funk said he’s been dedicated to conservation. However, Funk noted that some parts of the ordinance encroach on private property rights.

Also at the meeting, council voted to adopt on its second and final reading the annual appropriation ordinance for the fiscal 2016 budget. Council amended the budget at its May 26 meeting to remove the establishment of the assistant town manager position and take out $10,000 for the reclassification of the finance director position. Council also amended the budget to add $5,000 to the salary for the town attorney and $5,000 to council expenses. The budget includes a salary increase for town employees of $1 per hour.

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