Town to support Avtex zone designation

Front Royal has agreed to seek the adoption of a resolution to support an application by the Warren County Economic Development Authority that would create an Avtex Enterprise Zone.

The enterprise designation would require an application to the state of Virginia, according to EDA Director Jennifer McDonald.

If approved by the state, it would formally re-designate the Front Royal Enterprise Zone as the Avtex Enterprise Zone.

Town Manager Steve Burke noted that previous town requirements for companies entering the zone would include a 50 percent waiver of town utility connection fees would still apply.

“What it’s intended to do is to help us pay down some of the debt service on those improvements or to put money away for future improvements,” Burke said.

Burke added, “If someone is coming into the community and is going to be a lasting customer, eventually … we will recover some of the costs through our rates.”

Burke also said the town should consider establishing an escrow to ensure that any firm coming into the zone does then turn it over to another firm “without some benefit to the town” regarding waived water line connection fees.

According to Burke, developing the water piping at the site is a “worthwhile investment” that is still a costly million-dollar venture.

“We do need to make sure that whatever firm comes in, we will continue to see them operate for a period of time to recover our investment,” Burke said.

McDonald said state code for enterprise zones specifies that firms must stay in that zone for a period of at least five years. She added, “They have to maintain the amount of jobs that’s on their initial application.”

Town Mayor Timothy Darr voiced his support of the resolution. “You need to offer incentives to put yourself in the market, that’s the game that’s out there,” he said.

“The unique [aspect] of us is our location and proximity to Washington, D.C., especially out there with ITFederal,” Darr added. “That’s the type of businesses that we been limited to, to attract to that area.”

McDonald said the EDA has included neighborhoods surrounding the park in its application due to the fact that the applications are scored based on the area or locality.

“If you are in a lower income area, you get more points for the application,” McDonald added.

Burke said, “The good news and bad news is that the ordinance will only affect commercial and industrial property, so there is no net benefit to the residents.”

Approval of the resolution will require two public hearings at the town and county level, with the application due to the state by Sept. 1.

Also on Monday, the town adopted changes to two town ordinances concerning urban forestry and public tree management. The ordinances passed with votes of 6-0 and 5-1, respectively.

The ordinances sought to enhance the town’s urban forestry management as well as its management of trees on public property.

One of the goals under the town’s newly adopted urban forestry ordinance is to increase the town’s tree canopy cover from its 2008 level of 41 percent to 46 percent by 2030.

In addition the ordinance also contains portions on the creation of an Urban Forestry Advisory Committee, comprised of five county-resident members that will be selected by council.

Several town and county residents voiced support for the ordinances at Monday’s meeting.

Connie Cermak, a resident of Front Royal, noted that she is relatively new to the area and moved to the town with her husband to retire.

“We are outdoor aficionados, we love to hike and the environment is what brought us here,” she said.

Cermak added, “We love the fact that you, as our council, are protecting the beautification of our town and … hope that you do continue to make that a priority.”

Members from the Front Royal-Warren County Tree Stewards attended Monday’s meeting and spoke in favor of the town ordinance.

Melody Hotek, a county resident and tree steward, said, “The bottom line for all of this is that this is about the quality of life here in Front Royal.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or

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