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Wednesday 29 September 2004

Front Royal Council Comes Out Against Front Royal Council

For those of you who are following the saga of the attempt to build a Wal-Mart store in Front Royal (more here), an interesting development was reported in last week’s Warren Sentinel:

Town changes position on Wal-Mart
Is Front Royal suing itself? New council sides with Gateway group against rezoning

The Warren Sentinel

Front Royal Mayor James M. Eastham verified on Tuesday that the Town of Front Royal has changed its legal stance in the suit filed to challenge the previous Town Council majority’s rezoning of the proposed Riverton Wal-Mart site.

The filing of an amended plea of the town’s position in the suit filed by five citizens with ties to the Save Our Gateway grass roots organization was made on Monday, which was the final day such a filing could be made according to an opinion filed by presiding Judge James V Lane on Aug. 31.

“It is the duty of the Town Council of Front Royal to consider the health, safety and general welfare of the town and all its citizens whenever making a zoning decision,” Eastham said in a prepared statement.

“In that vein, it is the considered opinion of the Town Council of Front Royal, with one abstention (Daniel Pond III) and one dissent (Joe McDaniel), that the former Town Council acted unreasonably in rezoning of the Richards tract in Riverton from R-1 to C-2 intensive commercial for a 184,000 square foot WalMart and an additional 80,000 square feet of commercial space is not consistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.

“In addition, there is grave concern that the traffic created by this intensive commercial district will create insurmountable traffic congestion at the intersection of Routes 55 and 522.

“This is why the Town Council authorized filing an Amended Answer in the case that agrees with the various allegations in the Bill of Complaint filed by Mr. Jakabicin and others that the former Council’s conduct was unreasonable, not fairly debatable, invalid and unlawful in all respects,” the mayor concludes in a bombshell indictment of the former town leadership defeated in the May election.

Mayor Eastham and councilmen Stan Brooks, Eileen Grady and Tim Darr were swept into office this spring in what was largely perceived as a public indictment of the pro-Wal-Mart rezoning incumbents running for re-election.

Defeated in that election were Mayor Robert L. Tennett Jr. and councilmen Hollis Tharpe, E.D. “Dusty” McIntosh and Eugene Tewalt. Tennett was a vocal supporter of the Wal-Mart proposal, Tharpe and McIntosh were part of the majority that approved the rezoning.

While Tewalt did not vote, his decision to remain at a meeting to allow a quorum and second vote of approval was perceived as defacto support of the rezoning.

“I don’t know who we’re suing now,” one of the plaintiffs said following the Town filing.

Wal-Mart attorneys originally filed a brief supporting the former Town Council’s position in defense of its 2003 rezoning of the Richards tract.

However, while Wal-Mart has a direct interest in the rezoning it is not clear what the company’s legal status is in a challenge of governmental actions of the former Town Council.

Wal-Mart attorneys John H. Foote and Alice G. Haase could not be reached for comment prior to press time on Wednesday.
Posted by tino at 17:49 29.09.04
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