Board backs enterprise zone for Avtex site

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders voiced support Tuesday to create incentives for development in the former Avtex Fibers site.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to adopt an ordinance that establishes an enterprise zone to include Avtex, also referred to as the Royal Phoenix Business Park, and parts of the neighboring residential areas of Royal Village and Viscose City. The board also voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to apply to the state for the declaration of the enterprise zone. No one spoke during the hearing on the proposed ordinance.

Front Royal Town Council recently adopted a similar resolution and ordinance after working with the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority on the matter. However, after some local proprietors raised concerns about the fairness of giving such incentives to new businesses, and at least one council member said the ordinance didn’t appear to protect the town, council voted to rescind the change to the code. Incentives were to include breaks on local taxes and utility fees.

Assistant County Attorney Dan Whitten said the county ordinance creates the enterprise zone and provides for a reduction in building-permit fees and real estate taxes paid by new businesses that locate in the zone for five years. The county then will apply to the state for the designation of the zone. The county’s enterprise zone expires in about two years and has proven successful, Whitten said.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley explained that the zone as proposed includes residential areas because the state requires such zones to include a certain number of people living in poverty. Including the two residential areas should help the county meet the economic threshold to create the zone. The county had to meet the same criteria when it created the Cedarville Enterprise Zone that includes Family Dollar and other industrial users.

In response to questions from Supervisor Tony Carter, who said the ordinance would provide good incentives, Whitten explained that the county still can offer its own benefits separate from any town might include. As for protections, Stanley said the county can impose any stipulations it wants when offering incentives to a potential industrial user.

“I say the proof is in the pudding,” Stanley said, pointing out the numerous business and industries that received incentives for the first five years and still operate in the Cedarville Enterprise Zone.

The county sees the most benefit from the real estate taxes received on the properties, regardless of the user, Stanley added. In the county ordinance, the industrial user can choose when the 5-year incentive on the tax break would begin.

The state had removed the previously approved enterprise zone years ago after an extended period of no development activity at Avtex while the superfund site was still undergoing clean up.

Also at the meeting the board:
Adopted an ordinance on an emergency basis to relocate a polling place from Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department to the Front Royal-Warren County Airport terminal building on Stokes Airport Road. The county recently discovered structural problems with the Rivermont station and limited the occupancy of the building. The Electoral Board recommended the relocation though General Registrar Carol Tobin said the airport terminal is smaller.
Approved a conditional-use permit requested by Brian Shannon McGann for private-use camping. No one spoke during the public hearing on the request
Approved a conditional-use permit requested by Avinash Patwardhan to run a private, yoga-instruction school. No one spoke during the public hearing on the request.
Approved a modification of a conditional-use permit issued to Dian Schmiedicke for a private school. Schmiedicke asked that the county increase the occupancy allowed in the school from 24 to 49 people, including students and staff. No one spoke during the public hearing on the request.

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