The Front Royal-Warren County Liaison Committee meeting on Thursday, October 20 addressed a 10-point agenda on outstanding issues of mutual interest to the two geographically overlapping municipalities. But it was one topic, while issue 4/ was on the agenda, that first caught our attention – Front Royal-Warren County EDA Negotiations/Next Steps. The discussion indicated that the cited staff negotiations involved property acquisitions or construction costs, including near the Northern Corridor industrial parks on county lands, as well as the construction of Leach Run Parkway. These acquisitions or construction projects took place before the city council‘s decision, around 2019-20, to withdraw from participation in the half-century-old Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, following the discovery in 2018 of the FR-WC EDA. financial scandal.*
County EDA Director, former Planning Director Joe Petty and City Finance Director BJ Wilson led this Liaison Committee discussion. Later, we asked Petty and Wilson about the parameters of the FR-WC EDA “negotiations” and whether they could have a positive impact on the hostile civil litigation front. On the latter aspect, Petty pointed us to County Administrator Ed Daley, FR-WC EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne, or Acting City Manager Kathleen Leidich for comment. With these questions being posed late Friday afternoon, we had not heard from these three individuals about the potential impacts on existing civil litigation at the time of the weekend’s publication.
However, regarding the ongoing negotiations, Petty noted two main areas of discussion: “There are two topics. The first is to reconcile projects that the city, county and FR-WC EDA may have coordinated, such as Leach Run Parkway and the Royal Front Police Station. City and county staff are working together to determine the numbers.
“Second are the properties that were purchased by EDA FR-WC while both localities were financially supporting the EDA. The city and county want to ensure that each organization receives all of the benefits it truly right, and as with the projects above, staff will work together to help determine the benefits,” Petty concluded on a hopeful note.
The city’s chief financial officer, Wilson, explained things from his side. “Warren County has a gentleman, John Montoro, who works with me to reconcile some things between the city, the county, the EDA and other entities that may be involved. So far the only thing on which John and I have been working this is Leach Run Parkway construction expenses From last night’s meeting it appears that John will be working with me to reconcile the properties purchased by the EDA and various refinances that have occurred at the EDA.
“I haven’t worked with Joe Petty on a reconciliation yet, but that sounds like Joe, and I’m going to meet. John is the only one I’ve been involved with recently regarding the EDA reconciliation/ Warren County Joe may have worked with John on the County/EDA side, I’m not sure.
“When it comes to court cases, I think the intention is to make us work to find numbers and show the differences; which could lead to a settlement,” Wilson concluded, also on a hopeful note.
Other bonding topics discussed include:
1/ Tourism business marketing plan update and next steps for DMO,
2/ An update of the water capacity,
3/ Overlapping city and county comprehensive plan reviews targeting compensation plan updates.
5/ Parks and Recreation/Youth Programs (Youth Football),
6/ Holiday events – Christmas ride/Carnival,
7/ setting up an alternative access route to Shenandoah Shores Road and Mary’s Shady Lane to facilitate access for emergency services when the railway tracks are blocked,
8/ Blighted Properties application parameters,
9/ Warren County Transfer Station, and
10/ Financing of the Firefighters of the Front Royal, Company 1.
One of them, #3/ Overlapping city and county comprehensive plan reviews, targeting updates that will guide future residential, commercial and industrial development in the years to come, led to an interesting proposal for transport infrastructure. It looks like the two planning teams are communicating to try and develop updates that don’t have conflicting goals or infrastructure implications. With regard to infrastructure implications, the transport variable of the compensation plan discussion led to a jump to agenda item 7 regarding the establishment of an alternative access route to Shenandoah Shores Road and Mary’s Shady Lane to facilitate access for emergency services during times when these two roads are blocked. by commercial rail traffic interrupted for long periods.
Two proposals have been suggested, one west of Mary’s Shady Lane, where the lanes curve north away from Happy Creek Road, and one at the intersection of Shenandoah Shores Road with Interstate-66 . Fire and Rescue Chief James Bonzano explained that the I-66 option would not be a generally accessible interchange, but rather a limited access point for emergency service vehicles only. Discussions from previous years have indicated that federal guidelines would not allow an interchange at this location because intersecting state/local road dead ends terminate near the river. The northwest option is thought to be far enough from the two affected routes that the average commercial train length of about a mile would not reach there if it blocked both routes.
The Royal Examiner will explore other areas of liaison of concern as these discussions develop.
Although he stood outside the main WCGC meeting room where there is video camera access, there was no video recording of the liaison meeting.
*FOOTNOTE: As the Royal Examiner has previously reported, the withdrawal/litigation decision following the objection of then-Royal Mayor Eugene Tewalt involved a previous composition of the council: Meza, Sealock , current Mayor Holloway and still-serving council members Thompson, Gillispie, (but NOT Scott Lloyd – we are in the process of confirming this sixth member), seated during the tenure of interim City Manager Matt Tederick. It was Tederick who brought to the board the Alexandria-based law firm Damiani-Damiani, which eventually agreed to handle the city’s filing of a civil litigation against the FR-WC EDA association. This move to take legal action over disputed claims of lost assets and liabilities came despite offers from FR-WC EDA Executive Director Doug Parsons for three-way “good faith negotiations” to determine “exactly at who owes what” of the FR-WC EDA financial scandal that came to light in 2018. Could such non-contentious negotiations now develop somewhat after the fact of this initial offer? Stay tuned.