County denies boundary change again

FRONT ROYAL – Not all boundary adjustments are created equal nor will pass muster with local leaders.

Warren County Board of Supervisors declined a request Tuesday from Chris Ramsey to consider a boundary adjustment to move 20.2 acres of land into Front Royal. Ramsey sought the adjustment to allow for the construction of 10 multifamily, senior housing buildings. Each building would contain 10 housing units.

But, as indicated in the resolution adopted by the board, the review of the request by town and county raised concerns about the condition of Guard Hill Road, traffic generated by the proposed development and its impact on the intersection at U.S. 340-522; the topography of the site and its impact on the northern entrance to the town.

The resolution also notes that the county’s Future Land Use Map in the Comprehensive Plan identifies the area as preferred for agriculture, not higher-density residential development.

Ramsey said by phone Wednesday that he plans to move forward with the proposed development without the boundary adjustment.

“Well, there’s other options and we’ll explore those,” Ramsey said. “We feel that it’s (a) much-needed housing option. We’ve had countless numbers of people who have asked us to pursue it and, so, as a result it’s a response to the needed housing option in the Front Royal area.”

Ramsey said he intends to apply to Warren County to rezone the property.

Town Manager Steve Burke said Wednesday that Ramsey could still conceptually connect to Front Royal utilities without moving his property into the corporate limits. Ramsey would have to pay connection fees at the out-of-town rates, Burke said.

North River District Supervisor Daniel J. Murray Jr. had the resolution pulled from the board’s consent agenda so he or other members could state their reasons for not supporting Ramsey’s request. Town and county officials as well as members of the nearby Elks Lodge have concerns because Guard Hill Road is already dangerous, Murray said.

In recent years the town and county agreed to adjust the boundaries to add 604 acres into Front Royal as requested by a developer who plans to build more than 1,200 housing units on the site. Parties also recently adjusted the boundaries for the new middle school that’s under construction.

The resolution cites the 604-acre Front Royal Limited Partnership development, noting that it will provide the land necessary to address the residential growth needs.

Supervisors considered Ramsey’s request in July 2015 and discussed the development proposal given the location and traffic concerns. County officials indicated at the time they were not interested in discussing the request. Ramsey asked the board early this year if they would reconsider his request.

Supervisors and Town Council volleyed the request back and forth so members could outline their concerns about the request and potential impact of the proposed development. Council discussed the matter and Town Manager Steve Burke responded on Aug. 5 that the town was willing to discuss the request with Ramsey and the county when the proposal is formally submitted. The town’s initial concerns focused on maintenance and necessary improvements to Guard Hill Road associated with development of the housing project; additional traffic and needed improvements to the intersection at U.S. 340-522; additional development not identified in the proposal; other properties that should be considered for adjustment near Ramsey’s; and compliance with town zoning regulations.

Supervisors reached a consensus at their Sept. 6 work session that they did not want to move forward with the request. The resolution adopted Tuesday made that decision formal.

The Virginia Department of Transportation voiced more detailed concerns about the adjustment more than three years ago as it could pertain to the proposed development. Ramsey submitted the annexation request in spring 2013 for the construction of 100 age-restricted senior housing units on Guard Hill Road. While the development then and now has focused on 20 acres, the property contains more land that VDOT officials say could be developed. VDOT also suggested then that Ramsey cover the $300,000 cost to install a signal at Guard Hill Road and U.S. 340-522 given the traffic the development would generate – approximately 350 vehicle trips per day in addition to the 1,100 the route already experienced at the time.

Ramsey owns 55.9 acres, 4 acres of which lie in Front Royal zoned in separate parcels zoned for commercial and agricultural use. In his March 13, 2013, letter to County Administrator Doug Stanley, Ramsey indicates he wants to annex the remainder of his property into Front Royal so he can use the town services.

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