Town planners back changes to housing project

FRONT ROYAL – The Planning Commission recently endorsed changes to a long-proposed development in town.

The commission voted to recommend that the  Town Council approve an amendment to proffers associated with the Front Royal Limited Partnership’s proposed development of its 149.3 acres south of Interstate 66, north of Happy Creek Road and west of the Happy Creek Technology Park. The land is zoned for residential use.

Front Royal Limited Partnership also owns several parcels totaling 604.7 acres to the west of the 149-acre property. The town annexed the 604.7 acres several years ago through a voluntary settlement agreement with Warren County. The 604 acres remains zoned for agriculture use though the developer plans to apply to the town to rezone the land. The settlement document lays out the potential development of the 604 acres as well as certain limitations agreed upon by the town and county. The developer’s request to change the proffers does not apply to the 604.7 acres it also owns.

The existing proffers in the application approved in 2010 included cash amounts the developer would pay to the town per unit built, Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp said recently. The proffers also called for the town to give credit to the developer for land used to build the east-west connector road, Camp said. The proffers also included a cap on the tap connection fee, Camp said. The new set of proffers under consideration no longer includes these provisions, Camp explained.

The new set of proffers focuses on the construction of the east-west connector and its extension through the 604-acre property, Camp said.

“It’s to eliminate the confusion and inevitably the different interpretations that would come out of the current proffers from 2010,” Camp said. “It’s also to make them legal. Some of the things that were adopted in 2010 are not in compliance with the state code, are not things that should have been proffered.”

State code does not allow the town to accept what effectively serves as a gift to the developer through the proffers, Camp explained. Proffers must reflect payments made by the developer directly related to the impacts of a project.

“Most of us weren’t here in 2010 so that makes this difficult,” Camp said. “Effectively what the proffers are are not really what I think people thought they were when they approved them in 2010 because there are a lot of loopholes and credits and things in there that make a big difference in how things would potentially play out.

“So we looked at all the financial scenarios of how things could play out and the town’s at risk and the developer’s at risk, depending on the way things go,” Camp added. “This kind of makes it a lot more simple and direct and we know what we’re gonna get and it allows the developer to move forward with this project.”

The developer likely plans next to submit an application to rezone the 604 acres, Camp said.

The commission voted in favor of a motion to forward Front Royal Limited Partnership’s request to modify the proffers to the Town Council with a recommendation for approval. No one spoke during the public hearing held on the request. Newly appointed member Cee Ann Davis voted against the motion.  The council must also hold a public hearing on the proposed changes.