Following an hour closed session to open its evening monthly meeting of April, the Warren County Board of Supervisors convened its open session at 7 PM, Tuesday, April 19. And one of two items added to the agenda at the meeting’s outset as “Additional New Business” to be considered as the meeting’s last matters of discussion or action produced an agenda surprise for those few remaining to the meeting’s adjournment at 9:15 PM.
That surprise was acceptance of “the notice of termination of the Shenandoah Farms Subdivision Sanitary District Management Agreement provided by the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms, Inc. … to be effective June 30, 2022.” Legal advice on the Farms Sanitary District was again one of the topics the board considered behind closed doors Tuesday evening, as it was the previous week.
Other closed session topics on April 19th included legal advice surrounding various FR-WC EDA litigations, including the dueling civil suits with the Town of Front Royal, that against Jennifer McDonald and other civil case defendants, and “other potential claims and litigations relating to other possible liabilities of the EDA, the recovery of EDA funds and assets, and the outstanding indebtedness of the EDA”; as well as the much-recently discussed behind closed doors “prospective business or industry” proposed to be located in the Shenandoah District on both sides of the Town/County boundary line.
But with no public action or comment on those matters, it was the County’s acceptance of the POSF’s initiative to retake management control of the Sanitary District that was the evening’s eye-opener.
But about Old Oak Lane
But in a related matter, the fate of Phases 4 and 5 of the Old Oak Lane Rural Addition Revenue Sharing Projects was much less clear after a lengthy discussion of design, cost, and funding variables. The agenda packet staff summary noted that on March 29, the POSF had requested withdrawal from the projects due to cost increases.
“All engineering needs to be discontinued so no further cost is incurred. At this time any further rural road program should be paused until further notice,” POSF Chairman Ralph Rinaldi wrote to County Public Works Director Mike Berry in that March 29 notice of his board’s vote to withdraw at this time.
The matter was originally part of the Consent Agenda for routine business requiring no public discussion. Berry’s agenda summary noted that, “The decision to withdraw was made after County Staff presented the significant construction cost increases anticipated, to the POSF. Old Oak IV construction cost is currently estimated at $598,950 beyond the VDOT approved construction budget of $998,250. Similar increases are anticipated for Old Oak V with a current VDOT budget of $1,077,903.”
Berry also pointed out that “100% of the anticipated construction cost increase would need to be paid by Warren County and Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District.” Being for about a mile of road improvements and looking at an estimated $1.2 million in additional costs to be covered by the County and Sanitary District funding there was apparently little or no pushback by county staff to the POSF request.
However, Farms resident Melissa Chappell-White urged the board to postpone a decision during Public Comments early in the meeting. North River District Supervisor Delores Oates then led the board’s effort to get additional information before committing to a withdrawal from the projects. Sanitary District tax revenue collected in recent years earmarked for the projects were a primary concern Oates expressed in seeking to delay a decision on withdrawal. Her motion to table a decision passed by a 5-0 vote.
But prior to that vote to table and with the threat of additional costs being incurred on the County end if preparation for the projects continues, Public Works Director Berry presented a lengthy explanation of those cost increases in the VDOT assisted projects. He said cost hikes revolved around engineering costs related to design changes on originally planned traditional culverts found to be necessary to handle the amount of stormwater anticipated to flow down the roads. The change was described as a series of four specially designed box culverts, essentially “bridges” that were termed “a catastrophic change” financially.
Asked if there was a drop-dead date or optimum time for a board decision, Berry replied, “Yesterday”. Noting the potential of additional costs being incurred as the projects move forward, County Administrator Ed Daley observed, “We need to fish or cut bait.” It appeared the board would adjust its coming work session agendas to accommodate a quick turnaround on a decision, possibly by May 3.
As the last Public Comments speaker, County Department of Social Services Director Jon Martz rose to acknowledge April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. With County Parks & Rec, this Saturday, April 23, WC DSS will host a Child Abuse Recognition Jubilee in support of the prevention of child abuse open free to the public at the 15th Street football field at the Health & Human Services Complex. Special guests at the event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be Bikers Against Child Abuse, an advocacy group that supports victims of child abuse in court appearances. They will make their bikes available for photo ops to children attending the event, Martz noted. So, come out and have some fun in support of all this community’s children.
Six Public Hearings began at 7:30, five of those being Conditional Use Permit (CUP) requests for Short-Term Tourist Rentals, the other for a timeframe variance request to allow a “Voluntary Transfer of a Proposed Subdivided Lot to an Immediate Family Member”. Only one of the six drew a public speaker, and that was a supportive neighbor of the final Short-Term Tourist Rental permit request. Planning Director Joe Petty, Deputy Director Matt Wendling, and Zoning Officer Chase Lenz summarized the various requests for the board. On recommendations of approval from the County Planning Commission with various conditions attached, all six were approved by 5-0 votes by the supervisors.
Following the opening public hearing on the Subdivided Lot Variance request of Robert and Crystal Dolan, those Short-Term Tourist Rental permitting requests were in order of presentation for:
Emilia Simeonova and Sergei Kulaev at 5462 Browntown Road;
Jerry Lang Jr. at 468 Lands Run Road;
Nicholas Webster and Morgan McCabe at 203 Mossy Rock Way;
Pratik Patel at 368 Freeze Road;
And Michael and Judith Albarelli at 740 Broad Run Road.
Tax Rates were approved as advertised for “Calendar Year 2022 … except for the Personal Property Tax Rate due to ongoing concerns about vehicle valuation increases.
Then a second item added to the agenda at the meeting’s outset, at the request of County Administrator Daley, and the final business of the evening was adoption of a draft Sanitary District Policy for Tree/Brush Removal and Wood Disposal. After another presentation by Public Works Director Berry and an Oates-propelled philosophical discussion on the relative merits of rules surrounding making cut wood from the sides of Sanitary District roads available for residents’ pick-up for heating use versus intrusive governmental oversight, the draft was approved by a 4-1 vote, Oates casting the lone dissenting vote of the evening.
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