FRONT ROYAL – Town Council could decide today if a developer may build narrower roads through a housing project.

The Front Royal Limited Partnership requested a special exception to the town code section that regulates widths of streets for developments in certain zoning districts. The developer applied for an exception to allow a reduction of 4 feet from minimum width for local and collector roads. The exception would apply only to the developer’s 149 acres zoned for residential use that lies north of Happy Creek Road and the Norfolk Southern Railroad, and accessible via Marys Shady Lane. The request does not apply to the adjacent 604-acre property recently annexed into the town the developer intends to rezone.

The developer first submitted the special-exception request almost a year ago and then revised the request in May. An exception would allow the developer to use alternative design standards for the streets. The developer wants the leeway to build local streets at 32 feet and collector roads at 36 feet. The original request sought 29-foot-wide local streets. The town requires 36-foot-wide local streets and 40-foot-wide collector roads.

Council held a public hearing Aug. 22 but chose not to take action on the request on first reading. Rather, council decided to postpone action until today to allow town staff to draft a motion based on discussion about specifics.

Staff has recommended that council include language in its motion to state “this special exception shall not alter the Town Code regulation that requires the minimum street width to be increased to meet the guidelines of the Virginia Department of Transportation Road Design Manual where additional width (is) necessary, such as, but not limited to, streets that are designated as school bus access roads.”

Staff also have recommended that council’s motion exclude the planned East-West Connector Road from the exception.

Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp said the town code already includes the language but the motion as once considered after the public hearing did not make it clear. The East-West Connector likely would serve as a school bus route in the future and such roads must span 40 feet in width, Camp said.

Partnership representatives said narrower streets would fall in line with the town’s Comprehensive Plan goal of making “walkable” neighborhoods and help the environment by decreasing the amount of impervious surface related to storm-water runoff.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt reiterated his concerns that the exception essentially undercuts recent changes made to the subdivision ordinance. Tewalt also claimed the partnership likely plans to lay the groundwork before selling the property to a different developer.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or