FRONT ROYAL – The Town Council will continue discussions next month regarding a water request from the proposed Crooked Run West housing development.
The proposal calls for 120 residential units west of Target, along with the potential of future commercial properties, according to Crooked Run West Developer Tom Mercuro.
To build the development, however, the council must agree to provide town water. Then, the Board of Supervisors must rezone a portion of the property from commercial to residential.
A group of citizens have taken issue with the matter and recently protested the development before a Town Council meeting.
Some issues those protesters noted included that the town does not have enough water, that the land is one of the few spaces in the county left for commercial development and increased traffic. Citizen Gary Kushner presented the council with a scroll of paper containing 500 signatures of residents opposed to the development.
Mecuro said that perhaps the developers have not suitably presented their desires, which is why he came to the Town Council’s Monday work session to give a presentation.
He said that the proposed development is specifically designed to provide quality and affordable housing to Warren County residents.
Mecuro noted that a bridge must be built to access the property and no commercial opportunity would arrive without the bridge. That bridge, he said, cannot be constructed without a residential development.
“No one’s gonna go build on an island. We have to build a bridge. To build a bridge, we have to have an income. The income that we’re looking for is housing. And we are asking for water for that purpose,” he said.
Mecuro said the project will significantly contribute to water infrastructure improvement and schools.
He said the annual real estate tax on the land is $25,000, which would increase to $600,000 if the development were approved. He asked where else the town is going to get that revenue. Additionally, he noted that the development would contribute about $7 million in fees associated with construction.
That number may reduce, however, if the town approves a proposed reduction in tap fees, which is the cost to connect to the town’s water and sewer system.
Mecuro added that the developer would widen Winchester Road to decrease traffic congestion and potential commercial use of the property could potentially provide jobs.
"Is this enough?" he asked.
Mecuro said it is estimated that the multi-family units in the development will use 75,000 gallons of water daily while planned assisted living units are estimated to use 15,000 gallons daily.
“I don’t think I’m draining the Shenandoah River guys,” he said.
Councilwoman Letasha Thompson said that figure is wrong and the average person uses 100 gallons of water per day.
Asked if the council should vote whether to provide water to the development next week, Councilman Eugene Tewalt and Thompson said they are not ready.
Councilman Jake Meza said at this point the council either wants to provide the development water or does not and the matter should be placed on next week’s agenda.
Thompson said she wants to review the information Mecuro presented. Tewalt agreed, saying the council has a bad habit of not thoroughly analyzing issues.
He noted that the town has a memorandum of understanding with the county stating that 40,000 gallons will be sent daily to the Winchester Road corridor for commercial use.
In addition to changing that memorandum, he said approving the request would go against the town’s water policy. That policy, he said, states the town has to ask the county if the land should be annexed into the town before deciding to send water.
“We’re jumping the gun on this guys,” he said.
Interim Mayor Matt Tederick said the town is “jerking business people around.” He noted that discussions regarding the development have been ongoing for six months and he does not understand why the policy is just now being mentioned.
“I’m perplexed,” he said.
Town Manager Joe Waltz countered that Tewalt brought up the memorandum of understanding months ago.
“It’s not been a sleight of hand here,” he said.
Waltz added that the proposal has been “fluid” and Monday was the first time the developers made a presentation to the council.
Tewalt pointed out that the water policy was included in the meeting's agenda.
“All of that information is there. All you’ve got to do is read it and make sure that you understand what is being said or ask questions,” Tewalt said.
Meza responded that perhaps the council does understand and is asking to change it.
“Well I don’t think you read it,” Tewalt said.
Council members Chris Holloway, Gary Gillispie, Tewalt and Thompson have all previously publicly stated their intentions to vote against the request.