Road work for Royal Farms moves forward

FRONT ROYAL – A years-long effort to improve part of U.S. 340-522 in Warren County and spur development can finally move forward.

The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority and the county Board of Supervisors entered into a memorandum of agreement Friday to improve part of U.S. 340-522 between Diamond Ridge Road and County Club Road through the Virginia Department of Transportation cost-sharing program.

The county, EDA and developers have worked on this project for at least five years in the hopes it would lead to more investment in part of the commercially-rich corridor.

The EDA board of directors voted at a special meeting to approve the memorandum of agreement and related resolutions. The memorandum outlines how property owners, the county and VDOT plan to share the cost of the project. The EDA board also approved a resolution that awards the contract to W-L Construction & Paving Inc.

The EDA board also had to approve a contract with the Virginia Nutrient Bank LLC for the purchase of nutrient credits for the project. The EDA needed to buy 1.84 nutrient credits for $38,650 from the Berryville Nutrient Bank in Clarke County because the project site lacks the space for the required storm-water retention facility. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality authorized the bank to generate and transfer non-point source offsets in accordance with several programs. The DEQ allows developers and local governments to buy nutrient credits to comply with stormwater runoff requirements designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

County Administrator Doug Stanley explained that part of the improvements is necessary for the development of the Royal Farms convenience store. The $1.7 million cost of the project came in higher than hoped and engineers worked to pare down the design, Stanley recalled. The cost to improve the road specifically for Royal Farms was estimated at around $350,000, Stanley added.

But the improvements also should provide traffic benefits beyond Royal Farms and spur development of 15 to 20 acres of nearby commercial property, Stanley said.

The county and the EDA almost lost out on state funds needed to help cover the cost of the project. Stanley said after the meeting that the state awarded the cost-sharing funds to the project three times. The county didn’t spend the money within the allowed time. Stanley said the county was at risk of losing the funding this time.

As stated in the resolution, supervisors first approved a resolution in October 2012 to request cost-sharing funds in the amount of $2.02 million toward the cost to build the Winchester Road Vertical Alignment Project. The initiative initially proposed the construction of a southbound lane and right-turn lane into the site for the Royal Farms convenience store and to include improvements to Old Hill and Dale Drive. The project also initially called for the addition of a northbound, left-turn lane, traffic signals at the intersection of Diamond Ridge Drive and U.S. 340-522 and the complete vertical realignment of the highway.

The board adopted the resolution at the request of Marlow and Silek Investments LLC, who plan to develop approximately 7.62 acres on the west side of U.S. 340-522. The project would allow for commercial access to the developer’s property.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board in June 2013 approved the request for $2.02 million through the cost-sharing program with VDOT administering the project. Marlow and Silek marketed the site but could not provide the 50-percent match toward the construction cost and thus could not move forward with the development.

The county is now working with Crooked Run North LLC – the owner of 2.27 acres who has submitted a plan for the development of the site for a Royal Farms convenience store. The planned development puts access to the site off Old Hill and Dale Road and a portion of the improvements proposed under the project. Crooked Run North LLC representatives intend to build the store this year. VDOT officials indicated that they could not complete the necessary improvements along U.S. 340-522 for the site until mid-2018 at the earliest. Crooked Run LLC asked the county, through the EDA, to assume the administration of the project and to bid and construct the improvements in order to expedite the work.

The memorandum states that the EDA, working with Pennoni Engineering, agrees to complete the design of the required improvements, seek bids for a portion of the project and provide oversight through construction and acceptance of the work by VDOT and reimburse 50 percent of the building costs to the state.

Crooked Run North LLC agrees to cover $350,000 of the required match to design, bid, manage and build a portion of project. Marlow and Silek Investments LLC agrees to fund up to $225,000 of the required match. The county agrees to fund up to $225,000 of the match. The county and the EDA agree to expedite the design, bidding and construction.