Council backs sale of police building for brewery, restaurant

FRONT ROYAL – Town Council backed a plan to sell the former police department headquarters to a group seeking to turn the building into a brewery.

Council voted 6-0 on Monday to approve a resolution authorizing the sale of the property at 24 W. Main St. Council may accept or reject the best bid received for final sale of the property at its Nov. 14 meeting.

The resolution states that the town no longer desires to maintain the property marketed through the Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority for more than a year. The resolution goes on to state that the town received an offer council deemed reasonable and fair and would result in the reuse of the property for commercial uses.

Council held the required public hearing pertaining to the potential sale of the property. Jerry Welcome, one of several partners seeking to buy the property and turn it into a bistro and brewery, spoke during the hearing. Developers would hope to open the business by August, Welcome said. The business would offer craft beers brewed on site while the full restaurant would feature as many locally inspired foods as possible, Welcome said.

“We think this will add an awful lot to the Main Street and we hope that, you know, we can be one of those businesses that will be open dining enjoyment,” Welcome said.

The business would help redevelop a surplus town building; create a destination for tourists and the community; generate more tax revenue and provide 20-25 new jobs, Welcome said.

Bill Barnett, agent for Edward Ogletree Commercial Realty, represents Welcome and his partners. Barnett said he was excited about the venture that Welcome and the partners are proposing.

“It’s something that all the communities around us are getting into,” Barnett said. “They’ve really engaged a group of really fascinating and interesting people to put this together as partners to work on this.”

Councilman Eugene Tewalt said after the hearing that he’s pleased with the prospect of the town finding a buyer to develop the former police headquarters. Councilman John Connolly echoed Tewalt’s comments. Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger recalled being impressed by the partners’ business plan for the property.

Also at the meeting, council:
• Voted 5-1 to approve on first reading an application for a special-use permit, which stipulates including a special-exception request, acceptance of right-of-way and right-of-way reservation as presented, for a project proposed by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority. The project calls for the development of three, 12-unit apartment buildings for a total of 36 units at the end of Royal Lane. The EDA has said the apartments would be used for workforce housing, specifically for employees in the area who cannot afford a home but make too much to qualify for subsidized housing. At the public hearing on the request, council heard from Glee Plough who asked if the housing would serve workers who temporarily live in town. EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald said the housing is aimed at law enforcement officers, teachers and other professionals. Council also heard from neighboring residents, one of whom voiced concerns about the added traffic and people. Egger voted against the request and said she was concerned about building such a project on a dead-end street, calling it bad planning.
• Voted 6-0 to approve a resolution to apply for a Virginia Department of Transportation Alternatives Grant seeking funds for the Construction of the Criser Road Trail, the final section of the Royal Shenandoah Greenway. Melody Hovek, with the Front Royal Tree Stewards, spoke during the public hearing on the application in support of the effort.
• Voted 5-1 to approve on second reading an application from the Front Royal Limited Partnership for a special-exception to the town regulations pertaining to street widths for certain roads specifically for a 149-acre development near Happy Creek Road. Tewalt voted against the request again, saying he felt appalled by council for approving the exception so soon after adopting updated regulations for subdivisions. Egger said she supported the exception and narrower streets in general.
• Voted 6-0 to accept a donation of candy valued at $150 from the Skyline High School Friends of Rachel Club for use during Hometown Halloween.

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