FRONT ROYAL – The Town Council is considering an ordinance that would allow the town to repair blighted buildings if property owners choose not to do so.
Town Planning Director Jeremy Camp during the council’s Monday work session presented an ordinance mirroring policies in Loudoun County and Leesburg that allows localities to repair blighted buildings threatening the public’s health, safety or welfare.
Town Attorney Doug Napier explained over the phone that examples of a hazardous structure would include a building that could fall on a public street or one infested with rats. He said a more extreme example would be a gas leak that is cost-prohibitive to fix, which would necessitate the building being demolished.
According to the proposed ordinance, the policy would allow the town manager to inspect a structure about which the town has received complaints. If the town manager decides that the structure is blighted, a written notice would be sent to the property owner.
If the property owner decides to make the necessary repairs, Napier said “that’s the end of the story.”
If the property owner does not provide a plan within 30 days to resolve the issue, the proposed ordinance states that the Town Council will have a public hearing to determine if the structure is a public nuisance and whether the town should repair the building.
If the town does make the repairs, Napier explained the costs would be offset by placing a tax lien on the property.
The ordinance will be up for approval at an upcoming Town Council meeting.
The council also accepted a $23,322 escrow agreement with Sheetz for the town to complete road improvements where the company plans to build a gas station on land formerly home to the Shenandoah Motel near Shenandoah Avenue and 17th Street.
Camp explained over the phone that Sheetz has received a permit to demolish the motel and has received site plan approval for the gas station. He added that the company still needs to obtain building permits.
County Building Official David Beahm stated in an email that the county has also approved a demolition permit, but it cannot be issued until the Department of Environmental Quality approves a stormwater management plan and issues a construction permit.
Also at the meeting:
• Mayor Eugene Tewalt explained that an executive search firm soon will be hired to find a permanent replacement for Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick.
• The town waived zoning permit fees for churches participating in the Front Royal Thermal Shelter Program.
• At the request of the Habitat for Humanity, the council waived water and sewer connection fees for a duplex at the corner of Brown Avenue and Cherrydale Avenue.
• The council approved a $176,200 purchase of water meters.
• The council entered a closed session for: consultation with legal counsel regarding the town’s $15 million civil lawsuit against the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority; an update on the status of the Afton Inn; personnel matters.