Town likely to seek enterprise zone near Avtex

FRONT ROYAL – Town officials might seek special state designation for the former Avtex Fibers site that could help spur development.

But obtaining the Enterprise Zone for Avtex and other, adjacent areas isn’t a given as the state grants only a few requests each year, making the process competitive.

Town Council plans to hold a public hearing Monday on a proposed ordinance to reenact on the first reading the code section pertaining to the Front Royal Enterprise Zone. Council also plans to take action on a resolution to declare the zone. The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority will then apply to the state to seek the re-designation of the enterprise zone, Town Manager Steve Burke explained Wednesday.

The proposed zone includes the Old Virginia Industrial Park, a business park, the Skyline Soccerplex and Skate Park, and the neighborhoods known as Viscose City and Royal Village. The zone covers approximately 483 acres and includes 886 lots and 560 properties with addresses.

“The designation is sought for the Avtex site primarily to encourage its redevelopment,” Burke said.

EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald said Wednesday that businesses and industrial users that set up in an enterprise zone can reap benefits such as reduced permit fees and certain taxes. Such benefits only apply to commercial or industrial development in the zone and not residential construction. However, the proposed zone encompasses the residential neighborhoods because applicants can receive more points if the area includes areas of low- to moderate-income housing, McDonald said.

“You have to create jobs” to receive incentives, McDonald said.

The Cedarville Enterprise Zone in the U.S. 340-522 Corridor north of Front Royal remains one of the most successful enterprise zones in Virginia, McDonald said. The zone has created high amounts of tax revenue and has led to job creation. Recruitment of businesses and industries to set up in the enterprise zone also has been high, she added.

“Some Enterprise Zones, they don’t have all the activity we’ve had, which is a bad thing for us when trying to get a new [zone], because Enterprise Zones are earmarked for communities that are struggling to create jobs,” McDonald said. “So we may not even get this designation but it’s at least worth applying for.”

Front Royal had a state-approved enterprise zone that encompassed areas near the Avtex site. The previous zone covered only the Avtex site and the Old Virginia Industrial Park, McDonald said. The state removed the Enterprise Zone in 2002 for a lack of activity or development in the designated area. Neither the town nor the Economic Development Authority sought to ask the state to reinstate the zone because the Avtex site was not ready.

The Environmental Protection Agency last year declared that it had no further interest in the site after years of clean up. The EDA already has seen interest in the site for future development.

“With the release of the Avtex property, the EDA, town and county are seeking … re-establishment of that enterprise zone,” Burke said, pointing out that to do so requires a public hearing.

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