Police academy project moving forward

FRONT ROYAL – A new criminal justice academy planned in town made it over some major hurdles in recent weeks.

But whether or not the project spearheaded by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority can stay within its $8 million budget remains uncertain. EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald stated in an email  that the authority has not yet determined an estimated cost for the Skyline Regional Criminal Justice Academy.

“We have $8 million total to spend, so we are trying to make that number work,” McDonald said.

The EDA still needs to sign an agreement with a contractor to build the project and to obtain various permits to begin construction.

Pennoni Associates submitted a subdivision plan and a final plat for the extension of Progress Drive on behalf of the EDA. The authority needs the road extended into its property in order to build the academy and for other future developments. Applications include the required bond for the project, a stormwater maintenance agreement and a deed of restrictions that the Town Council required in association with a special-exception to certain development regulations granted earlier this summer.

The council recently considered a suggestion brought forth by Mayor Hollis Tharpe to use the nearly $250,000 the town collected from the sale of the former police department headquarters to install sidewalks and street lights along a portion of Progress Drive. Council members rejected Tharpe’s suggestion. One member said they needed to examine the town’s other projects and budgetary needs before they spend the money on the property sale.

The Planning Commission reviewed and recommended approval of the subdivision plan and final plat at its Sept. 20 meeting. Town code requires the council to review and approve the subdivision plan and the final plat for the major subdivision within 60 days after the Planning Commission takes its action.

Earlier this year, the council approved an application for special exceptions to certain design standards for projects, including the requirement that the developer build sidewalks along the road to the facility. The EDA contended that no sidewalk yet exists on Progress Drive.

An unnamed investor came forward in the fall of 2015 indicating a desire to contribute to the community. The investor decided to finance an $8 million academy facility. In 2016, area law-enforcement agencies decided to move from the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy’s satellite facility in Middletown to the future school in Front Royal.