Front Royal officials expect to take steps in the coming months to set up a building inspections department.

Council members received an update at a work session on Monday on the creation of a Building Codes and Environmental Division. Assistant Town Manager Kathleen Leidich explained the process and timeline to contract a consultant who would provide certain inspections services in Front Royal.

The new division would regulate and control the design, construction, quality of materials, use, occupancy, location and maintenance of all buildings, structures and certain equipment in Front Royal, according to town government information.

The division would review and issue building permits and inspect the structures for final approval before occupancy and use.

Town officials and the council have for several years discussed the possibility of creating Front Royal’s own inspections and permitting department. Warren County currently provides those services for the town.

Town Manager Steven Hicks noted that the consultant’s scope of work would not address blighted buildings. Council members Joseph E. McFadden and Letasha T. Thompson said they are more concerned with the more difficult task of addressing blight in the town.

The town plans to seek proposals from qualified, private-sector professionals to provide the plan review and inspection services within the division. Town staff plan to ask the council at its Sept. 27 meeting to authorize Hicks to execute the Building and Environmental Services contract and related documents.

Town staff expect to review proposals in October; interview top-rated firms and begin initial work with the consultant in November and finalize the plan in December. Staff expect to begin to implement the project work plan in January.

Also at Monday’s work session, council received an update on the work underway to update the town’s Comprehensive Plan. Planning Director Lauren Kopishke presented information about the process, which will take about 18 months.

“So the comp plan is essentially our guidebook for the community,” Kopiske said. “This is gonna guide the future actions for the next 25 to 30 years, so it is very long-range.

“It’s very general,” Kopishke said. “It’s like a high-altitude view of the town versus where zoning and subdivision ordinances are at the parcel level ... and the important thing here to remember is it is a policy instrument first and technical instrument second.”

Town officials consult the Comprehensive Plan when they consider a proposed development or zoning change to see if it falls in line with the vision document, Kopishke explained. State code requires that the town Planning Commission review and update the Comprehensive Plan every five years, Kopisheke said. The Town Council sets the goals and vision for the plan, she noted. The state requires that the town update at least three chapters of the plan — provisions for affordable housing, transportation with maps and broadband internet infrastructure.

The town awarded a contract to Summit Design on Aug. 23 to complete the rewrite of the Comprehensive Plan and the update to the Planning and Zoning Ordinances. The council needs to schedule a work session for members and staff to discuss expectations and strategies for the planning process as well as any concerns or opportunities. Once members provide guidance to town staff, the council needs to hold a joint work session with the Planning Commission to share a vision for the Comprehensive Plan.

The consultant sends out surveys and holds public meetings to gather input from the community and then use that information to help guide the work on the update, Kopishke explained.

Also at the work session, council members and staff discussed:

• Proposed revisions to town regulations concerning inoperable or abandoned vehicles. The Front Royal Police Department enforces parking violations on public streets with council’s guidance in accordance with town and state code.

• Revisions to the town’s special events permit policies and procedures.

Council and staff then met in closed session to discuss a personnel matter and prospective candidates for board appointments; to consult with legal counsel on actual or probable litigation pertaining to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority and its former executive director Jennifer McDonald; discuss or consider acquiring private property and disposing of town-owned property; to consult with legal counsel regarding contractual and programmatic matters related to a contract that has become problematic.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com