Property owner seeks protection for land

FRONT ROYAL – A local property owner wants to protect a mile-long stretch of land along the Shenandoah River in town.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday endorsed a proposal by Ronald Llewellyn to put approximately 40.5 acres of land in a conservation easement. Conservation easements protect land from development in perpetuity.

Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp said Thursday the commission made a recommendation to the Town Council to find that the easement conforms to Front Royal’s Comprehensive Plan. The easement underwent some revisions before the commission took action on the proposal Wednesday.

The commission included some conditions with the following recommendation: that the acreage and boundaries exclude a small portion of property to the west of the intersection of West 18th Street and North Shenandoah Avenue – commercial parcels owned by Llewellyn’s Shenandoah Avenue LLC – and a 40-foot right-of way to 15th Street. A title search also must be completed and reviewed by the town before acceptance of the easement. Additionally, the motion states that the commission has no objection for the town to accept the easement as a grantee if so desired by the Town Council.

The easement now goes to the Town Council for its consideration.

The town or other entity must serve as the managing agent of the easement if approved, Camp explained.

Specifically, Llewellyn requested that the easement include a 13.79-acre parcel that stretches along the south side of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, from the shoreline north of Adams Avenue to North Shenandoah Avenue. The request also seeks the inclusion of a 12.81-acre parcel extending east of North Shenandoah Avenue to North Royal Avenue. Llewellyn also wants a 12.98-acre parcel south of the Norfolk Southern Railroad and west of North Shenandoah Avenue in the easement. All land in the proposed easement with the exception of the 12.98-acre parcel lies in the flood zone, according to the Warren County geographic information system.

The property lies across the river from property owned by Larry Andrews, which is also held in a conservation easement by Front Royal.

A draft of the deed of easement states that the property, used by the owner for passive recreation, consists of open grassland, forests and river bottom. The land contains approximately one mile of frontage on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, from which the public has visual access to a large portion, and protection of the land “will contribute to improved water quality downstream and in the Chesapeake Bay,” the deed states.

As with most conservation easements, the draft deed outlines restrictions for the property. The easement prohibits any division of the property and shall only be sold or conveyed as a whole. The easement allows for the construction of one single-family dwelling, no larger than 4,500 square feet, on the property. The easement also allows certain non-residential outbuildings, a picnic pavilion, a storage shed for recreational and maintenance equipment, a viewing deck and a boardwalk if necessary for the construction of trail. The easement would let any governmental body maintain a public park on the property.

The agreement would prohibit construction of a dwelling or other building on the property within 300 feet of the river except for the aforementioned picnic pavilion.

The easement would limit industrial or commercial endeavors on the property to hay production, forest management, community gardens and temporary or seasonal outdoor activities.

Llewellyn’s company Shenandoah Avenue LLC owns the properties identified in the proposed easement. Llewellyn, a former member of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, also serves on the Board of Directors of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority.