FRONT ROYAL — The Warren County Planning Commission voted down a developer’s rezoning request for a 1,000-plus unit housing development near the Crooked Run Shopping Center.
The request was made by Crooked Run West LLC, which wants to rezone portions of the 100-plus acres it owns from commercial to residential.
The commission voted against the request by a 2-1 vote with Vice Chairman Robert Myers serving as the lone dissenter. Commissioners Ralph Rinaldi and Scott Stickley were absent. The vote is a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, which can overturn or uphold the decision.
The proposed housing development would include multi-family units, age-restricted or assisted living facilities and single-family detached and attached units. The proposal also includes plans for public uses such as parks and a small commercial zone.
Joe Silek, a lawyer representing Crooked Run West LLC, noted that that the rezoning is requested because the advent of online shopping has created new consumer habits as retailers file for bankruptcy and close.
Ed Murphy, Crooked Run West LLC owner, added that if the land stays commercially zoned, it will remain in its current undeveloped state “for a while.”
During a public hearing, 18 citizens spoke against the proposed residential development and voiced concerns including a decrease in potential future tax revenue and an influx in traffic.
Paul Gabbert said a housing development would create horrendous traffic conditions and crashes that possibly will result in fatalities. He added that the commissioners should do what is right for the citizens, not what will financially benefit a developer.
Howard Matthews said the land is the only part of the county that can be developed commercially, and using it for houses would result in significantly less future tax revenue.
Melanie Salins noted that the community does not need another park, as the “big and beautiful” Rockland Park is less than two miles away from the proposed development.
She noted that the nearby Riverton Commons has a number of recent businesses open and she believes the developer simply does not want to deal with challenges of fostering a commercial development.
Several speakers also noted that the residential development would require too much water, which could lower the Shenandoah River and negatively impact nearby houses with wells.
The residential development would be contingent upon the town making an amendment to a voluntary settlement agreement with the county stating that the town will only provide water to commercial developments in the 522 corridor. Town Council will discuss this at its Monday work session.
Commissioner Hugh Henry said that while he sympathizes with the developer over the fact that the “box store is gone,” Warren County is “terribly starved” for commercial and industrial land.
He said hopefully the commercial landscape will reinvent itself in the next few years and the developer “makes a fortune in commercial later.”
He noted that while a commercial development would bring more traffic than residential development, citizens commuting to work would be far more impacted by residential development.
Planner Lorraine Smelser noted that the commission has designated over 700 acres for residential development in which homes could be constructed without rezoning.
She added that the commission also needs to listen to citizens, noting that the only positive comments made during the public hearing were by the developer.