Council turns down VFW offer for old building

FRONT ROYAL – Town leaders have rejected a trade offered by a veterans group that lost its home to fire in 2015.

The Town Council received four bids on Monday for the former Department of Energy Services building located at 520A E. 6th St. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1860 did not offer a price for the property. Rather, the organization offered to trade part of its property at 1847 N. Royal Ave. for the town’s building.

In exchange, the veterans group offered to give part of its property on North Royal Avenue to the town for possible public access to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

But council declined the offer and decided to sell the property to the highest bidder – Adventure Enablers – a recreation company that puts on outdoor events that include several races in the area. Adventure Enablers offered $200,000 for the property and stated in its letter of intent that the company plans to move its headquarters to Front Royal.

A fire destroyed the post headquarters building July 11, 2015. Authorities recently charged former post worker Lesley Rose Deavers with arson related to the fire and embezzlement from the organization.

The fire left the post without a permanent home. Since then the organization has looked at its options, which include rebuilding on its property or finding another location. The organization moved ahead with drawing up plans to rebuild but discovered that the property lies in a flood plain and any new construction would need to follow strict guidelines.

Local developer Bill Barnett submitted a letter of intent on behalf of the organization as it looks for a new home. Barnett pointed out that the property’s location makes it cost prohibitive to rebuild at the present site. VFW members note that the town has little or no public access to the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah River, Barnett states. Members voted to offer the town the non-commercial portion of the post’s riverfront property in exchange for the former energy services department building. The offer included a study period to assure that the Planning and Zoning Department and the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control office can offer the same services to members provided at the current location, Barnett states.

Council held a public hearing last month to receive comments on the potential sale of the town property. Town purchasing agent Cindy Hartman opened the four sealed bids received by the deadline Monday and read the offers as submitted to council. Hike Construction, BG Plumbing, and Arctic Air submitted a joint bid to buy the property for $275,000. The council rejected the joint bid from the three companies because they submitted the offer after the deadline, town officials said.

Adventure Enablers, formerly Rev3 Adventure, offered $200,000 for the property. B and P Landholdings LLC offered $150,000.

B and P stated in its letter of intent that it wanted to buy the property for a local business owner to run his hardwood flooring company. The business opened more than 13 years ago and maintains a license in Front Royal.

Council voted 6-0 to go into closed session at the end of the meeting to discuss the bids and the potential sale or disposition of the property. Council returned to open session and voted 6-0 to accept the bid from Adventure Enablers for $200,000. Warren County real estate records list the property value at $389,300 as of the latest assessment. Records show the VFW owns a 9.37-acre piece of property assessed at $97,200.

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