County to consider going after businesses, builders for back taxes

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County soon could extend its crackdown on delinquent taxpayers to businesses and builders.

The Board of Supervisors plans to hold public hearings Jan. 17 on two proposed changes to the county code aimed at recovering back taxes. The board voted Tuesday to authorize the county to hold public hearings on both measures.

Supervisors discussed at their Nov. 1 work session the ongoing problem with certain builders not paying real estate taxes on properties owned by the builder until they complete construction of the house and the property goes to closing. State code allows supervisors to require payment of all delinquent taxes related to business licenses, real estate, personal property, meals and transient occupancy owed by all businesses to the county before it issues a business license. The owner could not apply for or renew a business license if the business owes delinquent taxes to the county.

State code also allows supervisors to require payment of delinquent real estate taxes owed to the county for a subject property before the owner can apply for a building permit. If supervisors adopt the option, the property owner could not apply for a building permit until delinquent real estate taxes are paid.

Also at the meeting, after coming out of the closed session, the board voted to authorize the county to advertise a public hearing for Dec. 13 for a proposed lease with the Front Royal Warren County Chamber of Commerce. The lease would allow the chamber to occupy office space owned by the county at 201 E. 2nd St., Front Royal. Teledata Systems currently rents space in the building but, as County Administrator Doug Stanley said Wednesday, the company has been moving out of the property. The chamber operates at 106 Chester St., Front Royal, in space owned by Associated Investments, based in Berryville.

Chamber Executive Director Niki Foster said Wednesday that the organization has operated in the Chester Street building for five years but the lease expires soon. Foster said the building on East 2nd Street offers a better layout for the chamber’s needs.

“It’s just a matter of having a little more open space,” Foster said.

The board added the item to its closed session for discussion at the last minute at Stanley’s request. The board had to suspend the rules to allow for the addition of the discussion item because Stanley made the request after supervisors already approved the meeting agenda. Stanley indicated that the matter was time-sensitive.

The county bought the property at 201 E. 2nd St. in January 2013 for $495,000. The property is now valued at $248,400.

Also at the meeting, supervisors voted to authorize county staff to advertise a public hearing for a proposed restriction on tractor-trailers from traveling on Reliance Road between U.S. 340-522 and Interstate 81. Warren County must obtain concurrence from Frederick County because Reliance Road ends at Interstate 81 to the west, the Virginia Department of Transportation has advised. The county reviewed restricting all truck traffic on Reliance Road in 2006 but in order to do so it needed to find an alternative route. Interstate 66 does not qualify as an alternative since trucks, primarily gravel trucks running from the Strasburg quarry, cannot use their 5-percent overweight permits on the interstate system as they can on Reliance Road. The only other alternatives are state Route 55 through Strasburg or Fairfax Pike through Stephens City. The alternatives likely would send more trucks through the two urban areas.

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