Council OKs Afton Inn demolition

FRONT ROYAL – The Town Council gave the green light Monday to letting a developer demolish the former Afton Inn.

Council voted 6-0 at its regular meeting to grant the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s application to demolish the Afton Inn at 2 E. Main St. Council acted on the EDA’s appeal of the Board of Architectural Review’s decision to deny the certificate of appropriateness for the demolition permit. The EDA filed the application for the permit on behalf of MODE Partnership.

Councilman John Connolly made a motion to grant the application to demolish the former Afton Inn. Councilman Jacob Meza seconded the motion. Connolly said he made the motion because he couldn’t see any path forward to saving the building.

Council acted several years ago to swap the former Town Hall building on Royal Avenue for the long vacant, dilapidated Afton Inn. The EDA took on the responsibility of marketing the Afton Inn for development. EDA representatives said multiple times they intended to find a developer that would keep the building intact. This year the EDA decided the restoration would cost too much.

The BAR voted unanimously at its Sept. 12 meeting to deny the EDA’s request after members voiced concern that the authority had not done enough to find a developer that could save the structure. The EDA notified the town several days later of its intent to appeal the BAR’s decision. Council quickly agreed at its work session last Monday to put the appeal on the meeting agenda.

Prior to taking action on the BAR’s appeal, several people spoke about the Afton Inn during the public comment period. Even though the BAR held a public hearing on the certificate of appropriateness for demolition, council was not required to hold a hearing on the appeal.

Joe Andrews urged council to not allow the demolition to go forward.

“I don’t want to see that building torn down and turned into something we could see in Fairfax,” Andrews said.

Matt Tederick spoke mostly about the former town hall building and claimed the latest owners of the historic property breached the agreement that came with the swap. Tederick told council they should look into the situation and showed photographs of the former town hall that depicted the building with peeling paint, vines growing up its walls and other signs of disrepair. Mayor Hollis Tharpe asked Town Manager Joseph Waltz to follow up with Tederick regarding his concerns.