Council hears public on budget

FRONT ROYAL – Town Council heard few comments about next year’s proposed budget Monday.

Council held a public hearing on the appropriation ordinance that establishes the fiscal 2017 budget, tax rates. The town plans to spend $45.78 million.

Former mayor Stan Brooks Jr. spoke during the public hearing. Brooks reiterated his concerns about the town’s agreement with Warren County over the sharing of revenue collected from the U.S. 340-522 Corridor, specifically the tax rates charged by hotels. Brooks suggested the town decrease its lodging tax rate by 2 cents and that the county increase its levy by 2 cents the following year so the rates even out. Brooks also suggested that the town is likely in its own recession and council shouldn’t move forward on building a $9 million police department headquarters. Brooks also suggested that council conduct a report card on the town that would give members a picture of the local economy.

Local businessman Mike McCool also spoke about the economy and noted that small businesses are disappearing. McCool cited other cities are “dying from the inside out” and he doesn’t want to see this happen to Front Royal. As for the budget, McCool said the economy isn’t growing and salaries remain stagnant and that bonuses are not prudent at this time.

“The only thing growing in our town is our government,” McCool said.

Council voted 5-0 to postpone action on a first reading of the appropriation ordinance until its next meeting June 13. Councilman John Connolly did not attend the meeting. Councilman Bret Hrbek, in response to Brooks’ suggestion about a town report card, said the United Way plans to conduct a similar study called the Alice Project.

Council also held a hearing on an ordinance amendment to increase rates for solid waste management services. No one spoke during the hearing. Council approved the amendment on its first reading to increase the collection fees from $277 to $300 per month for every customer who requires twice weekly pickup on a container larger than 6 cubic yards; to lower the rate from $227 to $215 per month for customers who require weekly pickup; an additional monthly charge of $58 for tipping fees per pickup of a commercial garbage bin; $26 per month for each 96-gallon container per commercial customer each week; $14.10 per month for each 96-gallon container per non-commercial customer each week; and $12 per month for each 32-gallon container per customer each week. Rates will be incorporated in bills after July 1. Councilman Eugene Tewalt said he hopes the town can study the potential of privatizing collection. Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger echoed Tewalt’s comments.

Also at the meeting, council:

• Voted 4-1 to affirm on its first reading an ordinance to add an optional set of performance standards known as cluster development to the R-1A District regulations. The Planning Commission and the Front Royal Limited Partnership drafted the ordinance additions over the course of several work sessions. David Vazzana, with the partnership, said during the public hearing the intent is to cluster development and the amendment has changed significantly since submitted a year ago.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt voted against the amendment in opposition to a section he claimed would bind the town to maintaining recreational facilities in the development.

Town Attorney Doug Napier said he interpreted the amendment as not binding the town to such responsibility. Optional cluster subdivision standards are included with the intent and purpose of providing greater flexibility for larger development projects, the amendments state. To ensure quality development, the added development flexibility is balanced with requirements that require additional open space and recreational amenities. These additional requirements support a development with higher property values; better preservation of the natural environment; and a more active and healthy community.

• Approved on first reading a request submitted by Front Royal Limited Partnership to adopt a Future Land Use Plan as part of the town’s Comprehensive Plan. The Future Land Use Plan is for the partnership’s 604-acre property annexed by the town in 2014 and zoned for agricultural use. The Future Land Use Plan also is the same as the one approved during the annexation and incorporated into the Voluntary Settlement Agreement reached between the town and Warren County. Representatives for the partnership spoke about the plan during the public hearing. Brooks asked if the Planning Commission or the developer initiated the discussion about the Future Land Use Plan. Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp explained that the developer submitted the application and the Planning Commission has been discussing the plan.

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