Front Royal sees changes to council, staff in 2017

Joseph Waltz

FRONT ROYAL – Front Royal and its elected leaders stayed busy this year, starting with a search for a new town manager.

The Town Council tapped Director of Energy Services Joseph Waltz as the new head of government, first in January to fill the job in the interim, then permanently. Waltz replaced Steve Burke who left to take a job with Manassas. Waltz, other town officials and the council also dealt with the task of replacing Police Chief Norman Shiflett, who resigned May 1. The town tapped Kahle Magalis, a major with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, to head its police department just as the council moves forward with plans to build the agency’s new headquarters.

The council also spent part of the year picking new members to fill vacancies. The council appointed Christopher Morrison to fill the seat vacated by Hollis Tharpe following his election as  mayor in November 2016. Later in the year, the council appointed Gary Gillispie to fill a vacancy left by Bébhinn Egger who resigned because she moved out of the state.

The town saw one potential development plan for the former Afton Inn fall through earlier in the year. Another developer, MODE Partners, stepped forward with a different proposal that called for the potential demolition of the historical building to save on costs. MODE Partners’ proposal divided the community and the Board of Architectural Review denied a request to allow the developer to demolish the building. The Town Council granted the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s appeal of the BAR’s decision shortly thereafter, an act that cleared the way for the demolition of the inn.

Also in 2017, the council:

Hollis L. Tharpe

• Embarked on an effort to address and prevent pedestrian deaths by marking crosswalks at intersections.

• Worked with the EDA on its plans to build the Skyline Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy on land off Prospect Drive

• Worked with the EDA on the ITFederal and West Main Street extension projects at the former Avtex Fibers site

• Moved forward on a project to replace the Criser Road Bridge by reaching a deal with a landowner near the crossing. Town officials tried twice to seek bids from companies willing to build the project, each offer coming in much higher than the estimated cost.

• Continued to discuss, heard mostly support for, and considered a rental inspections program aimed at pushing landlords to keep their properties up to certain standards. The council put off taking action on the proposed regulations more than once and had not voted by the end of the year.

• Spent time considering rules regarding the tethering of dogs and ultimately approved the code changes after hearing public support