Town hears Christendom request for land

FRONT ROYAL – The town will hold on to its stake in land considered for a future Interstate 66 interchange – for now.

Christendom College intends to expand its athletic facilities and seeks to buy the town’s half-interest in property on the north and south side of Interstate 66, west of Shenandoah Shores Road.

Town Council heard the request at its work session Monday but several members said they wouldn’t support selling the property to the college. Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe and Councilman Eugene Tewalt said the late Walter Duncan gave the property interest to the town for a future interchange at Shenandoah Shores Road and Interstate 66.

However, Tewalt and other council members said they would support the idea of granting an easement on the property to the college to allow access to the larger parcels planned for ball fields. Mayor Timothy Darr suggested that town staff continue to talk with the college’s representatives about the request.

Front Royal acquired one-half interest in approximately 6 acres of land several years ago, according to information from the town. Duncan’s sister Forest Ann Duncan held the other half interest until the college acquired it last month.

Local attorney Joseph Silek Jr. appeared at the session as the college’s legal representative. The property in question lies adjacent to land owned by the college on either side of the interstate. Silek said it would make sense for the college to control the remaining interest in the parcels.

Darr recalled that the town acquired interest in the property for an on-ramp to the interstate. Tewalt concurred with Darr.

“Before Mr. Duncan died I went out and talked to him and he asked me about that and said whatever the town does keep it under the town auspice so if an interchange is ever purchased or built there the property’s already there for the accessibility for the ramps,” Tewalt said. “My vote right now is ‘no’ because I want to honor his request.”

Darr and Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger asked Silek what the college plans to do with the land if it acquired the town’s interest. The institution acquired land on either side of the interstate for expansion, said Ken Ferguson, vice president of the college.

“The college is growing and doing well and we need to build, specifically on the 2 acres of land that Mr. Silek pointed out to you, an athletic field, baseball field,” Ferguson said.

The college would like to put a road on the 2-acre parcel that would allow access to the field, Ferguson added.

The Federal Highway Administration informed the town about 10 years ago that the proposed location of the interchange at Shenandoah Shores lies too close to the Linden exit to meet the agency’s requirements, according to information from Town Manager Steve Burke.

Darr said the town has been told in the past that, if more development occurred in the area of Shenandoah Shores and the interstate that an interchange might be warranted. Selling the town’s interest in the property to college would “complicate the design and increase the cost for any right-of-way acquisition should it be necessary” to build an interchange, Burke told council.

Tewalt reiterated his concern that the town should keep the property, noting that Duncan envisioned an interchange at the site.

Egger pointed out that an interchange likely would require land to the east of Shenandoah Shores Road. That land is held privately, Tewalt said.

Council appeared to show no interest at this time in selling the land to the college, Darr noted. Councilman Bret Hrbek did not attend the work session and one seat remains vacant.

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