FRONT ROYAL – The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority recently moved forward with plans to sell its 3.5-acre parcel off Royal Lane to a buyer who will develop housing on the land.
On Friday, the EDA board agreed to seek offers from interested buyers beginning in mid-July. An EDA news release states that “this is an opportunity to bring to Front Royal the first multi-tenant housing development in 22 years.”
In a $21.3 million civil lawsuit, the land is one of many EDA projects the authority accuses its former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald of using to allegedly embezzle money.
The property was supposed to be the location of a workforce housing project, which never came to fruition. The EDA in 2016 approved the $445,000 purchase of the land, which had an assessed value of $310,000, from McDonald’s aunt and uncle.
Eventually, however, the lawsuit alleges that the land was purchased above the approved price for $577,000.
The purchase was executed despite initial plans for the land to be donated to the EDA. McDonald claimed that her relatives would receive a tax credit, which was never thoroughly explained, if the land was donated. She said that a deadline, which was also never thoroughly explained, was missed and the tax credit was no longer available.
In 2018, the EDA sold the land to Cornerstone LLP for $10 in a deal that former EDA board members said was never approved. Former EDA Chairman Gray Blanton, who resigned from the board earlier this month, previously said that he did not recall being told the sales price and he signed the deed without seeing a full copy of the document.
In February, the EDA purchased that land back from Cornerstone for $26,722, a price agreed upon based on engineering work conducted for the property.