FRONT ROYAL – The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1860 is close to getting a site plan for its new facility approved, although two councilmen disapprove of the organization’s request for a waiver from curb and gutter requirements.
Town Council during a Monday work session reviewed the site plan for the VFW’s new lodge, which will replace its facility that was destroyed in a July 2015 fire.
Planning Director Jeremy Camp said the proposed new lodge is essentially in the same place on North Royal Avenue as the previous building, with the main difference being that it will be elevated on 13-foot stilts due to its location in the floodplain.
The proposed construction plan calls for curb and gutter to be installed in the parking lot, but the VFW is asking the town to waive its requirement that curb and gutter are placed along the street front.
Councilman Eugene Tewalt said the VFW needs curb and gutter along the street front more than in the parking lot because he has seen the area flood many times.
He added that he is tired of the council approving waivers to the town’s ordinance, noting that this would be the third curb and gutter requirement waived in the last two months. He said he wants to see the VFW re-build, but he also wants the town to follow its rules.
“We’ve got an ordinance; we either enforce it or take it off the books,” Tewalt said.
Councilman Jacob Meza disagreed and said the town would be taking advantage of the organization’s misfortune if the curb and gutter requirement were enforced.
He said the VFW is already spending a lot of money to elevate the building on stilts and that he is not inclined to require more money to be spent on curb and gutter, which was not required when the original lodge was constructed.
Had the building not burned down, Meza noted that the council would not be having the conversation.
Tewalt pointed out that any structure that burns down can be rebuilt within two years without submitting a site plan, but the VFW missed that deadline.
Meza responded that the only reason the VFW missed deadline is that construction costs increased when it was learned that the building needed to be elevated.
“And now we’re going back and sticking it to them with the curb and gutter,” he said.
Councilman William Sealock, a veteran of foreign wars, said he would like to see the VFW install the required curb and gutter. He said this would not be to “stick anybody” but to “enhance the building.”
Mayor Hollis Tharpe said when the site plan goes to a public hearing and vote, it would pass by a 4-2 vote. If any councilmen change their mind and it comes down to a 3-3 vote, he said he would break the tie with a vote in favor.