FRONT ROYAL — Among items on the Board of Supervisors’ Tuesday work session agenda is a presentation regarding a planned “love sign” for the corner of Winchester and Guard Hill roads.
County Zoning Administrator Joe Petty explained the “love” letters, which are designed to reflect different aspects of the community, would allow tourists to pull over and take photos by the sign with mountains and the Shenandoah River as a backdrop.
“It’s an entrance sign into our community. It’s a tourist project…it’s a tourism initiative to bring people here,” Petty said. “It’s been discussed for quite a while.”
Petty recently explained that construction on the site started about a month ago but was put on hold pending a presentation at the work session. Supervisors Chairman Walt Mabe explained via telephone that construction halted because the project dates back before three supervisors’ elections and they want a complete rundown of what is planned and how the money will be spent.
Total estimated costs are $12,090, which Petty explained factors in a $3,500 Rotary Club of Front Royal Grant and the assumption that the county will receive a $1,500 Virginia Tourism Corporation grant. Costs so far, he said, included $1,800 for a land survey. Design costs were $4,962 and $250 was spent for a Virginia Department of Transportation entrance permit.
Mabe noted that the project is funded through transient occupancy tax revenue, which must be used for tourism-related purposes such as the sign.
Petty said county staff is doing the work and the last time he spoke to construction crews, “they still hadn’t spent anything.”
“They put some rebar in. I don’t know if they already had that or if they had to go buy it,” Petty said.
Since the site is located within a VDOT right-of-way, Petty said the county had to submit a site and entrance plan to obtain VDOT approval. He explained that the county also developed a landscaping plan, which he said included shrubs and a couple of trees. While the county will not do that immediately, he said the plan was developed because “VDOT just said get it all done, that way we don’t have to worry about it later.”
Those potential future landscaping expenses are not included in the construction estimate.
The site will also include a small gravel parking lot.
Former County Administrator Doug Stanley also explained that he submitted a $20,000 “surety” to VDOT for which no actual money was spent. He said that is “just a guarantee that the work gets completed properly based on the permit” and that “we don’t go in there and tear up the road when we’re building the parking lot and that we do the work that we’re supposed to be doing.”
“In theory, if we didn’t fix right, the surety would guarantee that,” he said.
Mabe said that there is nothing unusual or controversial about the surety.
Petty added that there are four historic signs near the planned site – two state historic markers and two Civil War trail signs – that will be relocated in the area.
“You have to pull off to the side of 522 to see the signs, which is not the safest place. So this allows people to pull in and actually see the signs and read them,” he said.
Another benefit, Petty noted, is the site is a popular place for candidates’ campaign signs during elections, and “this kind of cleans that up.”
Supervisor Delores Oates expressed concern via text message that “the location is problematic” as it is very difficult to turn left off Guard Hill Road, across traffic and enter Winchester Road’s northbound lanes.
“It is difficult to make a left hand turn off of Guard Hill Road on a normal day. During the fall, at the height of tourist season, I am concerned about the safety of our citizens and visitors,” she stated.
Petty countered by saying that most people who will visit the sign would probably be entering town and would exit the attraction by taking a right onto Winchester Road and continue into town.
Stanley added that anticipated traffic generated at the sign is less than a single-family dwelling.
Other matters up for discussion during the work session include the state of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority; courthouse security fees; a potential gun shooting ban in the Dungadin subdivision; and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.