City Council working session addresses ongoing challenge of tourism funding and utility connections – Royal Examiner
After a nearly hour-long closed session on various legal issues related to the EDA, including dueling civil disputes with the town of Front Royal over financial responsibilities, as well as vacancies on the Commission of the At Front Royal-Warren County Airport, the Warren County Board of Supervisors embarked on an action program of six public hearings. The bulk of these public hearings have focused on the growing momentum of Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) for short-term tourist rentals or bed and breakfast operations.
The only action outside of the closed session was the appointment of Sean Roe to the county-run Front Royal Airport Commission (FRR) for a four-year term ending June 30, 2025. ending at the end of June 2023. Roe’s appointment comes as Commission Member Rock Skowbo’s FRR Airport leadership has come under fire, leading to an investigation by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
Debate on forgoing short-term setbacks
On the public hearings front, in the absence of opposition from neighboring landlords and support from tourist groups, businesses or rental professionals, the three applications for short-term tourist rental permits and one application for a conditional use B&B have all been accepted. Only one of those approvals was achieved by split vote, with the other three approved unanimously 5 to 0. The 3-2 split vote of approval on David Kondner’s short-term rental permit application is came from some staff in the Planning Department and the Board of Directors who were concerned about waiving the 100 foot setback requirement, potentially setting a non-compliant precedent. However, the fact that the plaintiff owned the most affected adjacent property just 30 feet away, the other affected property being 88 feet away, just 12 feet below the setback standard held on the day for Kondner with a Cook-Oates-Mabe majority of the board. Addressing the board, Kondner noted that no one seemed clear why the 100ft setback was implemented and wondered if it had just been chosen at random.
The property is on the Shenandoah River at 153 Beckwith Drive. Kondner’s neighboring property to the east is 167 Beckwith Drive. Planning director Joe Petty told council the short-term rental property offered off-street parking for three vehicles, which could accommodate two groups of guests when Kondor was at home using the third space. . Asked by Happy Creek supervisor Jay Butler what he planned to do with his adjacent property, Kondner cited a long-term rental plan. Petty noted that rentals longer than 30 days can be done as of right in the area. Kondner acknowledged opposition from an area resident based on what had been called issues related to “past Mexican issues.” The applicant questioned whether an apparently “racist” perspective should be taken into account as a valid reason for refusing his application.
A speaker appeared at the public hearing. Winchester resident Joseph Comstock, apparently experienced in the short-term rental business, noted that he grew up in Front Royal and Warren County. In support of the request, he stated that Kondner’s operation would have a good screening system established for rental customers and asked for approval. Kondner noted that he had a similar operation in Baltimore County that had a good track record. So, with experience and a good management plan in place, despite staff concerns about the non-compliant setback waiver and a resulting 4-1 denial recommendation from the county planning commission, the bid for Kondner to the CUP was accepted until a 3-2 approval vote, with Butler and Cullers dissenting.
The other three public hearings on the CUP demands were far less dramatic. Dennis Flynn’s CUP request for a short-term tourist rental at 484 Creek Road and David and Danielle Kibiloski’s CUP request for a Bed & Breakfast at 990 Hillandale Road both targeted the Appalachian Trail hiking community. First with a recommendation for approval from the planning commission, Flynn quickly gained a unanimous vote of approval without public hearing speakers.
Kibiloskis B&B CUP’s application has received rave recommendations for approval from the local hiking community, related organizations and businesses, including Susan Tschirhart, president of the local Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and even property owners. another area B&B, Scott and Lisa Jenkins of Mountain Home Bed. & Breakfast who sent a letter of support as they were busy welcoming guests to their B&B, and local hiking enthusiast and van driver Rose Turner.
That left John Lavoie’s short-term rental CUP request for a property at 1196 Old Oak Lane. And after hearing the claimant and a public hearing speaker, Abdul Khan, who said he owned several vacant lots around the claimant’s property, express enthusiastic support for the use, another vote of approval unanimous was carried out.
A fourth CUP short-term tourist rental application by Katherine Stallings for a property at 377 Brandy Road was taken off the agenda near the start of the meeting.
Redistricting and disposal of property
The first two public hearings were held to authorize the sale to the highest bidder of county-owned property at 30 East Jackson Street and approval of a voter redistricting plan to reflect population changes in the county since the 2020 census. Both passed unopposed. In the documentation explaining the redistricting, it is noted that:
“The 2020 census indicates Warren County’s population increased from 37,439 to 40,572; i.e. 3,133 additional people (8.37%). Based on this population, each of the county’s five local electoral districts should have an ideal population of 8,114; or be plus or minus 5%, which ranges from 7,708 to 8,520 people.
Redistricting strives to accomplish this readjustment of electoral constituencies while retaining the current polling stations in their constituencies; minimize the splitting of subdivisions and neighborhoods; use the main limits; minimizing repeated trips by voters to constituencies; maintaining a balance of diversity in each neighborhood; maintaining a balance of city voters in each district; and not move current school board members or county supervisors out of their district.
Approved as presented by unanimous vote, an eight-point consent agenda included “permission to advertise the repeal of the public hearing of Code Article 66-34 (bonuses for coyotes)” right next to the award of another $50 coyote bounty, appearing to continue a more than three-month trend of paying out good money after bad. Indeed, late last year, the council received a report from legal staff, backed by WCSO Animal Control, to halt bounties in light of long-term wildlife research indicating that the random culling of coyotes has no positive impact on reducing coyote pack numbers, and in fact may be counterproductive by sending females into heat more often, resulting in increased pack numbers due to isolated killing of members males of the pack.
During the county administrator’s report, it was apparent that supervisors were hoping for more detail than they have thus far received from the school administration on the proposed Warren County Public Schools budget. for the 2022/23 financial year. A joint budget work session is now scheduled to proceed with a special meeting of supervisors on February 22. The working session will begin at 5.30 p.m., followed by the meeting at 7.00 p.m.
County Administrator Ed Daley observed that it did not appear that the school board was as advanced as supervisors in its budget process and wondered if the school board had yet seen the final proposals from the preparation of the staff budget. On the positive side, Daley noted that public schools have been notified of a planned $6 million increase in state funding.
During board reports, Delores Oates noted that within the joint drug prevention committee with Councilman Gary Gillespie, a focused effort to establish a drug court system in the county continues.
At the start of the meeting, an emotional agenda item was added to convey a resolution of thanks to the Good Samaritans and authorities in Chincoteague and Accomack County, Virginia, among other surrounding communities, for their efforts. rescue and recovery in response to a January 22 boating accident. the side. This accident involved four young people from the region, two of whom were rescued, one whose body was found and one is still missing. God bless them all.
Click here to watch the February 15, 2020 Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting.