Board OKs tax rate for new sanitary district

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders took a major step Tuesday to help a subdivision repair its roads.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the fiscal 2017 budget and tax rate for the Shangri-La Sanitary District. No one spoke at the public hearing on the matter.

The county set the real estate tax rate for property owners at $385 – $100 higher than the current levy of $285. The extra revenue is needed to allow the subdivision to pay off its share of the cost to improve Shangri-La Road over 20 years. The board approved the maintenance agreement at its May 3 meeting.

A circuit court judge issued an order March 16 establishing the sanitary district. The county worked with Garrett Miller, Shangri-La Property Owners Association president, on the development of a management agreement, draft budget and tax rate. The county submitted a cost-sharing application request in 2014 for $237,418 to improve a .15-mile section of Shangri-La Road to state standards through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Rural Addition Program. The subdivision will be responsible for 25 percent of the price, or $59,355, plus any utility relocation costs. VDOT approved the project last year.

Also at the meeting, supervisors:
• Approved the fiscal 2017 Capital Improvement Plan for the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District. The plan includes projects constructed through VDOT’s cost-sharing program that the county turns over to the state for maintenance once completed. The Board of Directors for the Shenandoah Farms Property Owners Association supports the plan, a member told supervisors at the public hearing.
• Approved a conditional-use permit requested by Eugene H. Hisey Jr. to operate a gun repair and sales shop at 41 River Manor Drive. No one spoke during the public hearing held on the matter. Other than the test firing of weapons, tools used for the business will generate a minimal amount of noise. The business will operate by appointment only between 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday.
• Approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance to add “mobile food establishment” as a use permitted by-right and accessory use in the industrial district. No one spoke at the public hearing held on the matter. Mobile food establishments also will be allowed as a use on county-owned parks and recreation facilities. The action also adds the definition of mobile food establishments and supplementary regulations to the ordinance.
• Voted to postpone action on the county’s fiscal 2017 Capital Improvement Plan and discuss the document at the board’s next work session. Allen Ris spoke during the public hearing on behalf of Charles Prince, a longtime member of the Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department. Ris said the plan calls for $2 million for a new fire station but the estimates put the cost at $2.5 million to $3 million. Prince has concerns about the condition of the current station, how the county plans to cover the additional cost and if it intends to build the new facility before the existing structure fails, Ris said. He went on to ask the county to make the new station a priority in the near future. Shawn Graber, an employee of the Department of Fire and Rescue Services, spoke on behalf of Rivermont, noting the station’s failing condition and asked that the board keep the new facility on its radar. Vice Chairman Archie Fox, who represents the Fork District, said he was concerned about the order of priorities on the plan and made a motion to postpone action on the document. Happy Creek District Tony Carter said the board has agreed that a new station for Rivermont remains a priority. County Administrator Doug Stanley said the goal is to design the new station and put the project out to bid in 2017.
• Approved a motion to re-adopt the Virginia motor vehicle traffic laws incorporated into the county code. No one spoke during the public hearing held on the matter.
• Approved a motion to increase the maximum gross combined income to $35,000 for people grandfathered into the tax-exemption program for the elderly and disabled. The current maximum gross income for grandfathered people is $26,500 if the person is older than 65 or permanently and totally disabled, or $30,000 if the person is older than 70. Marilyn Lott spoke at the public hearing on the matter. Lott said she questioned the numbers and noted that the amounts do not take all variables into consideration.
• Voted 4-0 to repeal the county code section that bans the distribution of handbills, the solicitation of contributions and sale of merchandise or services on the highway. No one spoke during the public hearing on the matter. The county adopted the section in June 2010. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in a case in February 2015 and invalidated a Henrico County ordinance that prohibited soliciting contributions and engaging in other activities from a highway median. Henrico County made an argument about traffic safety but produced no evidence of problems. The court also found no history of criminal prosecutions of solicitors who blocked traffic. Shenandoah District Supervisor Thomas Sayre voted against the motion to repeal the section saying he worried about the safety of people in highway medians. North River District Supervisor Daniel Murray Jr. said he was concerned about the litter created by the distribution of handbills. Interim County Attorney Dan Whitten said repealing the section is easier and would help avoid lawsuits.

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