Neighborhood seeks sanitary district status

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County could create another sanitary district and its first under a new state rule early next year.

More than 30 residents who live along Wildcat Drive in the Aspen Hill Farms, Aspen Hill Farms Skyview and Lands of the Blue Ridge neighborhoods petitioned the county to put their homes into a sanitary district. The neighborhoods lie south of the Shenandoah River off Howellsville Road near the Morgan Ford Bridge.

The Board of Supervisors could set a public hearing on the proposed sanitary district if at least 50 percent of the property owners – not just registered voters – support the idea, County Administrator Doug Stanley explained Thursday.

Such a special taxation district would allow the county to collect fees from property owners and use that money to maintain the roads through the neighborhood. In this case, only Wildcat Drive and Bens Court serve the properties proposed for the sanitary district.

A state law pushed by Del. J. Randall Minchew, R-Leesburg,  went into effect July 1 that changed part of the sanitary district creation process. The most significant change shifts the responsibility for creating sanitary districts from the circuit courts to the boards of supervisors. Creation of the sanitary district also now requires the support of at least 50 percent of the property owners. The requirement for a petition signed by either 50 qualified voters, or by 50 percent of the qualified voters in the proposed district, remains. The county has since prepared a pamphlet on sanitary districts.

Stanley said he’s now contacting the property owners to gauge their support for creation of the district. If at least 50 percent of the property owners support the idea, the proposal goes before the Board of Supervisors for its consideration. Supervisors would need to hold a public hearing on the proposal before taking action.

Aspen Hill Farms contains 36 lots and 32 homes. Aspen Hill Farms Skyview consists of one lot and one home. Lands of the Blue Ridge covers eight lots and five homes. Deputy County Administrator Robert Childress said the Aspen Hill Farms homeowners association submitted a list of the lots included in the proposal. Lands of the Blue Ridge is included in the proposed sanitary district because it is accessible only from Wildcat Drive through Aspen Hill Farms. A gate prohibits vehicles from accessing Ellen Drive off Wildcat Drive.

Director of Elections and General Registrar Carol Tobin advised Stanley that 62 registered voters live in the proposed sanitary district. Of the 33 people who signed the petition in support of creating the district, 32 are qualified, registered voters.

Some sanitary districts participate with the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation to upgrade neighborhood roads and hand over their maintenance to the state. Wildcat Drive likely would not meet VDOT standards but the county could still maintain the winding road either through repairs or plowing snow when necessary, Childress said.