FRONT ROYAL – Town Council plans to consider adopting new versions of Front Royal’s building rules in the coming months.

Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing Monday on an updated subdivision and land development ordinance in the town code. The draft has been years in the making and the Planning Commission recommended in March 2014 that council adopt the complete rewrite of the ordinance. Since then, council has talked about the draft document in work sessions and requested that staff make some changes to the ordinance.

The draft features few substantive changes to the ordinance even though it represents a complete rewrite of the code section, Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp said Thursday.

“A lot of the same standards are kept but there was a lot of attention to detail, of trying to be less arbitrary and subjective in the standards,” Camp said, adding that the ordinance also eliminated any conflicting requirements.

The Planning Commission and town officials sought to make the ordinance easier to understand and regrouped the information into sections. They also tried to coordinate the rewrite of the subdivision and land development ordinance with the ongoing work on the zoning regulations.

“We hope it’s going to be something that’s going to clarify a lot of things and make it easier for a developer to kind of follow the guidelines,” Camp said.

Council last discussed the draft a couple of months ago. Councilman Eugene Tewalt recommended that the town require new homes to be built above the street centerline grade. Specifically, the draft requires new structures located less than 50 feet from the front of the lot be built at least 2 feet from the centerline grade of adjoining streets. However, the ordinance would allow the administrator to waive the requirement in certain situations if the developer submits certain documents and receives approvals from the Planning Commission and the Department of Environmental Services.

“I’ve heard a little bit of concern over that from the development community,” Camp said.

The town has many properties on which the houses or other structures are built below the street level because of the hilly landscape, the director noted.

During the Planning Commission’s work on the draft, representatives from the building community asked that the ordinance include a provision allowing for “low-impact” roads, typically 28-29 feet wide. Narrower roads cost less to build. The commission didn’t agree to that request but supported a special exception from other rules for developers who submit certain design proposals that would allow more flexibility.

“Of course the premise is on low-impact design — the less pavement the better it is for the environment, and that’s a good thing,” Camp said.

Tewalt also had proposed the town eliminate the rule that allows a developer to build a 32-foot-wide street. The Virginia Department of Transportation requires a minimum 29 feet for roads. Concerns were raised that the state minimum doesn’t take into account vehicle parking along the streets.

Other changes proposed in the ordinance call for:

  • An increase the required minimum thickness of the asphalt on roads from 1 inch to 1½ inch
  • An increase in the required sidewalk width from 4 feet to 5 feet

Council must hold two readings of the draft before adopting the ordinance.

Visit to view a copy of the draft ordinance.

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