Panel loses member after Afton Inn vote

FRONT ROYAL – A Board of Architectural Review member doesn’t want to stay on for another term after the Town Council overturned the panel’s decision to protect the Afton Inn from demolition.

The council plans to discuss appointments to two upcoming vacancies on the Board of Architectural Review at its work session today. Vice Chairwoman Joan E. Harding advised town officials she does not wish to be reappointed to the board when her four-year term expires Nov. 13. Harding’s reasons for not wishing the council to reappoint her to the board for another four-year term were not immediately known Friday.

Harding was a vocal opponent of a developer’s request for a permit to demolish the structure at 2 E. Main St. known as the Afton Inn as well as the Montview Hotel.

But Harding was not alone. She and the rest of the board voted in September to deny the permit requested by MODE Development as part of its proposal to raze the structure and construct a new building on the site. Harding and other BAR members raised questions about the developer’s intentions for the site post demolition. Harding also questioned whether or not the EDA did enough to market the site to a developer who would not pursue demolition.

The BAR took a tour of the Afton Inn before discussing the developer’s application at length. The BAR also held a public hearing on the application and delayed action on the request before ultimately voting against demolition.

The Planning and Zoning Department notified town staff members that Harding did not want the council to consider her for re-appointment. The town began advertising the vacancy on Oct. 23.

The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority appealed the BAR’s decision to the Town Council. The council reversed the BAR’s decision and granted the developer’s request. Unlike the BAR, town regulations did not require the council to hold a public hearing on the demolition proposal.

The Board of Architectural Review canceled its Oct. 11 meeting shortly after the council voted on the appeal. The board only meets when necessary. The board scheduled its next meeting for the day after Harding’s term expires.

Ahead of the BAR’s decision, some members commented that the council can and has reversed its actions in the past. The BAR acts to protect certain architectural features downtown. However, the appeals process ensures that the council remains the ultimate authority, aside from the courts, when a developer wishes to build or make changes to properties downtown.

BAR member Gary Vaughn has indicated he would like to be considered for reappointment, according to information provided by the town.