It was a close call, but the much-batted back-and-forth Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on future Joint Tourism efforts has been signed by BOTH involved municipalities. Well, it may not be news that one or the other elected body has signed the MOA. – But that on April 5, 2022, it was the SAME version previously approved by the other municipality certainly is good news after over four months of batting adjusted versions of the document back and forth. An exploration of Royal Examiner archives dates this round of attempts to update a mutually agreed-upon framework for Joint Tourism operations, including the creation of a 501-c6 Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) known as “Discover Front Royal”, to a November 29, 2021, joint work session of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and Front Royal Town Council.

It was at this Nov. 29, 2021, joint work session when the Town and County started batting a Joint Tourism MOA back and forth with repeated wording changes to what was submitted by one to the other. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Initially, approval of the latest version, with two changes forwarded by the Town on March 28, was submitted for approval as part of the Consent Agenda for routine business. But Fork District Supervisor Vicky Cook requested it be removed for discussion to gain a “better understanding” of what was being approved. And when she questioned the wording of the submitted MOA draft as to not making the same specification on the 50/50 annual funding formula of $200,000 by each municipality in the “County Shall” section as included in the “Town Shall” section it appeared another re-write and send back might be in the offing.

However, Interim County Attorney Jason Ham and County Administrator Ed Daley assured Cook and her colleagues that the wording as submitted from the Town’s last rewrite adequately specified both municipal contributions to the FY-2023 effort at $200,000, with an annual review to determine future contribution splits also noted in the draft. North River Supervisor Delores Oates seemed somewhat taken aback at the potential of yet another volley in the effort to certify a Joint Tourism Agreement between council and the supervisors.

Town Manager Daley and Town Attorney Ham tried to assure the board that the wording question raised by Supervisor Cook was not a roadblock to establishing Joint Tourism funding parameters this year or in the future. Yea, what they said, Supervisor Oates may have been thinking as she plead for final approval of the Tourism MOA as submitted.

“I’m just going to be honest with you. I’ve been thru this ad nauseum,” Oates said noting that the $200,000 line “was suggested by us – by Mr. Ham in our last closed session. So, to go over it one more time seems to me to be just very redundant. This is what we asked for. I’m not sure what we’re going to discuss,” Oates said of further belaboring of the agreement’s wording. “I would like to move forward, please,” Oates implored her colleagues.

And on Oates’ motion, seconded by Walt Mabe, the supervisors approved the draft submitted to them by the Town March 28, as presented by a 3-1 vote, Cook dissenting and Jay Butler absent.

Board defers vote of support on US Bike Route 211

But not to maintain a head of steam on tourism-related action items on its morning meeting agenda of April 5, after 41 minutes of discussion the county supervisors tabled action “indefinitely” on a Resolution of Support for the county’s portion of a multiple-jurisdiction US Bike Route 211 designation. Still doing double duty as the County’s Planning and EDA Director, Joe Petty reiterated the case for Warren County joining other surrounding jurisdictions in the bike route being established for the longer-term riding portion of the bicycle tourism community.

Petty referenced the staff-prepared agenda packet, which noted: “Bicycle tourism is a growing industry in North America, contributing $47 billion a year to the economies of communities that provide facilities for such tourists. Warren County can benefit from this opportunity both economically and from the health and environmental related benefits of encouraging bicycle travel in our region. There is nearly 18,000 miles that are currently established in 31 states and Washington D.C. The proposed route for USBR 211 will provide a benefit to Warren County and having the route mapped and signed, would promote bicycle tourism in our area.”

As of March 14, the agenda summary noted that four of the nine involved areas had submitted Resolutions of Support. They were listed as the Towns of Strasburg, Woodstock, and New Market, along with Shenandoah County. Other pending localities weren’t listed. The proposed route through Warren County was cited as entirely on VDOT-maintained State roads “beginning on US Route 340 in Front Royal, then: VA 619, VA 677, BA 619, VA 615, VA 626, VA 615, VA 619, VA 678, VA 616, VA 55 and Park Rd. into Strasburg.”

Or as Petty described it in more local terms: “It begins in Front Royal and would take you out of town south on 340, make a right on 619, and then you would make an immediate right on Catlett Mountain Road, which would take you up by the airport, you would get on 619 again for a short amount of time to jump on Stokes/Airport Road, which would take you over to Wayfin (sp?) Mill, then make a right on Mountain Road past the Fish Hatchery, and you would be jumping on Strasburg Road and head toward Strasburg. Petty estimated one to two thousand cyclists using the US Bike Route 211 “per season”, essentially per year.

County Planning/EDA Director Joe Petty summarizes the staff report on the US Bike Route 211 initiative. Relevant organizations, including The American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Adventure Cycling Assn., Virginia Bicycle Federation, and Shen. Valley Bicycle Coalition are seeking municipal endorsements of the tourism-friendly project. However, several supervisors led by the Fork District’s Vicky Cook, below, are reluctant to put a County stamp of approval on the project out of safety concerns.

However, Cook, in whose Fork District much of that route lies and who previously asked for a delay in a vote to explore constituent opinions, was joined by Cullers and Mabe in expressing safety concerns on the projected path. Cook and Cullers noted a lack of commitment from VDOT on even warning signage that involved roads were a designated bike route, or on any future improvements to involved roads to address safety concerns surrounding things like S-curves and sharp drop-offs off paved roads.

But Oates reiterated points made by staff, first that regardless of a County endorsement the bike path was already being displayed online, including “Google maps”; and second that with or without an endorsement, bicyclists already have the right to ride the roads on the route. Staff had previously noted during the initial presentation of the initiative that the route was chosen as a relatively safe one, generally directing cyclists away from higher vehicular traffic state or local roads.

“Currently they have a right to do it. So, to me it’s a moot point,” Oates said of the formality of an endorsement by the county government. However, Oates did agree that tabling a decision pending further input from VDOT on safety and signage might be advisable. Though with the US Bike Route 211 matter on the day’s agenda, no questions on this topic were thrown VDOT’s way when their monthly report on projects in the county were addressed earlier in the meeting. The VDOT rep was long gone by the time this discussion was broached.

Following a question to attorney Ham from Supervisor Mabe on when the matter could be revisited following either a negative vote or a vote to table a vote, on a motion by Cook the board voted 4-0 to table the matter “indefinitely”. That vote would allow the matter to be reintroduced at any time.

Procurement policy and Personal Property car tax options

Also pulled from the original 12-item Consent Agenda were two related items regarding County procurement policies in Chapters 38 and 39 of County Codes, the latter related to “Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002. Rather than approve advertisement for public hearings on the matters, items G-5 and G-6 were pulled for discussion during a scheduled work session where County Purchasing Agent Alisa Scott was already slated for a presentation on recommended changes to Chapter 38 on procurement strategies. County Administrator Daley said the public hearings would likely be pointed for in May.

During his report, County Administrator Daley introduced Finance Director Matt Robertson to discuss possible options on stabilizing the sharp increase in some used car valuations impacting Personal Property Taxes for some people.

Daley pointed to delays in final approval of a State Budget pushing approval of local tax rates for the coming fiscal year back. He said no vote was likely following the board’s budget public hearing next week at the April 19 Special Meeting. He cited the board’s morning meeting of May 3rd for a potential vote on the County’s FY-2023 budget package.

Closed Meeting and Work Session

Discussion of actual and potential litigation related to the FR-WC EDA financial scandal was added to a scheduled closed session’s topics. Scheduled topics included personnel matters related to the Northwestern Community Services Board and legal advice regarding the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District. Following the nearly two-hour closed session, Kerry Magalis was appointed to the NCSP Board for a term ending 12-31-24 in the open meeting’s final action.

Alisa Scott replaced Jason Ham next to County Administrator Daley to open the hour-and-five minute work session that ended the board’s day at 2:09 p.m.

At a work session beginning at 1:05 p.m. after a short break, in addition to Purchasing Agent Scott’s Procurement Policies presentations, Public Works Director Mike Berry and Deputy County Administrator Taryn Logan presented an overview of Sanitary District operations and functions provided by the County. No mention of the Property Owners of Shenandoah Farms (POSF) initiative to take back management control of that Sanitary District was made during that presentation.

However, at the open meeting’s outset first Public Comments speaker Melissa Chappell-White presented the board with some material critical of the POSF initiative.

Retired Happy Creek District Supervisor Tony Carter followed Chappell-White to the podium to suggest the board consider not approving a name change for the South Fork Bridge for Joseph Warren and Daniel Morgan, rather keeping the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge name originally given to honor all the county’s veterans, rather than specific historical figures.

See all these discussions, presentations, and votes in the County meeting and work session videos.

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Town Planning Commission Work Session continues Comprehensive Plan Work – Royal Examiner

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