Board to hear sides on sanitary district

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders can expect to hear arguments Tuesday for and against a push to abolish the Lake Front Royal Sanitary District.

The Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. on the request to join a petition of Lake Front Royal residents to ask a circuit court judge to abolish the recently created sanitary district.

Judge Ronald Napier ordered the creation of the district on Jan. 21 after receiving a petition from at least 50 qualified voters.

Supervisors agreed at a work session May 17 to hold the hearing on the request. Subdivision resident Nick Manthos served as the spokesman for the petitioners and provided information to the board that he claimed showed good reason for supervisors to support the request to abolish the district. Manthos and other supporters of the request have said the residents who petitioned the court to create the sanitary district did so against the wishes of the property owners association after repeated attempts.

The county received documents from Charlie Gornowich on July 8 related to the push to let the sanitary district remain in effect. Supporters of the district argue that the county has no legitimate reason to abolish the district.

The 2015 Profit and Loss paper for the property owners association states that $32,283 was collected from the first installment of the bridge replacement project – less than 46 percent of the expected $71,400. Given the current collection rate, it would take seven years to collect enough to begin the project. A sanitary district provides a way to collect more money in a shorter time, supporters argue. A sanitary district also provides alternate funding options not available to the property owners association should the bridge fail, such as access to loans or lower interest rates.

The property owners association hasn’t substantiated its claim of an 85 percent collection rate, sanitary district supporters argue. Six of the petitioners in favor of the sanitary district have served previously on the property owners association. The association board opposes the district and has tried to publicly shame the original petitioners, and district supporters claim the association no longer holds quarterly meetings in an attempt to hold the neighborhood hostage, the document provided by Gornowich states.

County Administrator Douglas Stanley plans to give a presentation on the pros and cons of creating a sanitary district.

The dispute exposes a discrepancy in the state policy regarding sanitary districts. At least 50 qualified voters living in any subdivision can petition the court to create a sanitary district for the neighborhood. However, abolishment of a sanitary district requires not only a petition of at least 50 qualified voters living in the subdivision but also the support of the elected body, in this case the Board of Supervisors. Petitioners in either case need not be members of their neighborhood’s property owners association.

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