Council puts off vote on rental rules

FRONT ROYAL – The Town Council again delayed a vote Monday  on a program aimed at tackling dilapidated buildings and rental properties.

The council voted 4-2  to remove from the meeting agenda an ordinance to amend the Front Royal municipal code chapter on buildings by adopting a property maintenance code and to create a rental inspection district. Vice Mayor Eugene Tewalt and Councilmen William Sealock Jr., Jacob Meza and Christopher Morrison voted to take the matter off the agenda. Councilmen John Connolly and Gary Gillispie voted against the motion.

The council held a public hearing to receive input on the ordinance Aug. 28. The council held a public hearing for the first reading of the proposed ordinance on Sept. 25 after which members approved a motion to postpone action on the changes until they could discuss the matter at a work session. A vote to affirm the ordinance on its first reading appeared on the council’s meeting agenda Monday.

However, Meza made a motion to take the matter off the agenda so the council could continue its discussion about the proposal at its next work session. Connolly questioned Meza’s motive for delaying action on the proposed regulations, saying that Town Attorney Doug Napier had previously addressed his concerns with the proposed regulations. Meza said some questions about the regulations remain unanswered.

In response to a question from Mayor Hollis Tharpe, Napier said removal of an item from the agenda did not require a unanimous vote by council.

Also at the meeting, council voted to:

• Approve a deed of gift to the Warren County Public Schools Board that conveys a 28-foot by 425-foot strip of land, approximately 0.27 acres, east of Acton Street and adjacent to Ressie Jeffries Elementary School for use as a playground. Warren County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard spoke during the public hearing in support of the conveyance.

• Approve a special-use permit requested by Seymour Robinson, on behalf of the property owner, Allie Nichole LLC, to modify the conditions of an existing permit that allowed an automobile garage at 8 W. 14th St. The new application seeks to eliminate the condition that requires a wood fence in the left front yard of the garage that has been removed. No one spoke during the public hearing on the matter.

• Approve a special-use permit requested by Dwight Dutton Jr. to build a single-family dwelling on a non-conforming lot in the residential district, located on the north side of East 13th Street near Warren Avenue. No one spoke during the public hearing on the matter.

• Affirmed on its first reading an ordinance that adds language to the town code that creates a joint towing board that considers applications from towing recovery businesses seeking to be added to a list that the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, the Front Royal Police Department and the Virginia State Police use in requesting operators who will  tow vehicles from the scene of an emergency or crash. No one spoke on the matter during the public hearing.

• Affirm on its first reading an ordinance to make changes to the town code pertaining to weeds and debris. The proposed changes would improve the town’s ability to enforce regulations governing high grass and trash removal, according to zoning officials. The council held a public hearing on the proposed changes on Oct. 13, 2015. The council took action on the second reading of the proposed changes Nov. 9, 2015, but members voted to not amend the code. Connolly noted that he voted against the measure twice in 2015 and added that he would do so again Monday. Connolly and Meza voted against the measure. Gillispie, Tewalt, Sealock and Morrison voted in favor of the ordinance.

• Adopt on its second and final reading an ordinance to change the town code pertaining to the application process for, and the display of banners on poles promoting civic events

• Approve a request from HEPTAD LLC to extend the firm’s deadline to submit a development plan. Town code requires that a development plan be submitted within one year after the approval of a master land use plan. The code allows council to extend the deadline. Council approved a one-year extension in 2016 that expires Dec. 3.

• Reappoint Gary Vaughn to the Board of Architectural Review to a four-year term set to expire Nov. 13, 2021, and reappoint Sarah Wills to the Urban Forestry Advisory Commission to a four-year term set to expire Dec. 20, 2021.

• Meet in closed session to discuss a potential cost-sharing agreement with Warren County

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