U.S. EPA Public Notice – Proposal to Modify Remedy at AVTEX Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposes to modify institutional controls currently in place at the Avtex Fibers Superfund Site, located in Front Royal, Virginia. This proposed Explanation of Significant Difference, or “ESD,” specifically targets Operable Units (OUs) 7, 8 and 10 of the site to ensure continued protection of public health and the environment, while also facilitating future reuse. The EPA is required to announce this modification and invites public comment on it during a 30-day public comment period which begins on September 14, 2011 and ends on October 14, 2011.


Proposed Modifications
For OU 7, EPA proposes to modify the Ecologically Protective Backfill Values and include a performance
standard for the pH of the upper six inches of soil to be no less than 5.5 prior to seeding.
For OU 7 and OU 8 and OU 10 , EPA proposes to separate the existing conservation easement at this
site into three separate easements to better account for changing uses and stewardship of the properties
comprising this site. This is proposed to help facilitate the specificity of future development. The new
easements will provide the same restrictions on future use to maintain long term protectiveness of the remedy.


EPA welcomes your input! Send comments electronically:
lose.kate@epa.gov
Or send in writing to:
Kate Lose, Remedial Project Manager
1650 Arch Street (3HS23)
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 814-3240
For more information visit
http://www.epa.gov/reg3hscd/npl/VAD070358684.

Published in: on September 15, 2011 at 3:14 pm  Comments (2)  

5.9 earthquake rocks, Virginia, D.C.

Strongest Virginia quake since 1879 damages apartment water lines here

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, as people in the Northern Shenandoah Valley braced for possible inland rains and wind from Hurricane Irene’s projected path north up the Eastern Seaboard they got an unexpected jolt.

At 1:51 PM as this reporter was having lunch with a friend at Elements on South Royal Avenue the building was shaken by what was reported to be a 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered 4 miles from both Louisa and Mineral, Virginia. A quick map check of the USGS website indicated the epicenter triangulated by Charlottesville to the west, Fredericksburg and Richmond to the northeast and southeast, respectively.

According to the USGS the earthquake was centered at 38N latitude and 78W longitude in an area known as the Central Virginia Seismic Zone. Weaker earthquakes in the 4.0 range to 5.0 range are reported as typical of this zone.

ABC TV 7 in DC reported the quake to be the strongest one in Virginia since 1879.

The USGS reports that 4.0 quakes can typically be felt 60 miles away and 5.0 quake as far away as 300 miles, with damage typical as far as 25 miles from the epicenter of a 5.0 quake.

The Associated Press reported that two nuclear reactors operated by Dominion Power in Louisa County near Lake Anna within 25 miles of Mineral were undamaged. Those reactors were automatically shut down near the time of the quake. Four emergency diesel generators were operating key safety systems at the nuclear plants, according to AP.

The quake rolled through Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and into the Northern Shenandoah Valley. One co-patron at our Tuesday afternoon lunch stop, Edward Jones broker George Karnes, estimated what he felt as a 2.0 to 2.5 tremor. We were unable to verify or dispute Karnes’ guess at the strength of the quake as it reached Front Royal.

Local damage

Property Manager Teresa Cherry of the Shenandoah Commons Apartment Complex off Westminster Drive told us initial reports indicated damage, primarily to water lines, in nine of 10 buildings in the complex. Some residents allowed to return to their apartments were advised not to use their stoves that evening. However following an inspection of all units it appeared only five residents and two pets were in need of temporary accommodations to facilitate repairs.

On the scene at Shenandoah Commons at 5 PM, County Fire and Rescue Officer Marti Viggiano said it seemed the county would not have to open an emergency shelter at one of the public high schools due to the small number of displaced residents. Local Red Cross has traditionally been able to utilize local motels for families displaced by residential fires in the county.

DC area damage

Some 70 miles to our east, where nerves are usually a bit more taught due to the national political machinations for control or destruction of the federal governmental apparatus, the U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings were evacuated due to the rolling tremor. DC-area TV reports showed large numbers of people milling about outside buildings in downtown Washington, including headquarters of the Washington Post.

Despite the evacuation of their building, the Post reported the quake was felt as far north as Boston, as far south as Anderson, South Carolina, and northwest to Columbus, Ohio.

The Virginia Department of Transportation initially reported no known damage to bridges or roadways. However damage reports began rolling in as the afternoon progressed.

A spire was reported to have collapsed at National Cathedral in DC, closing that building to the public. News 7 DC also reported that a building on the 6100 block of Oxon Hill Road in Prince Georges County, Maryland had collapsed. No initial details on the type or age of that building were available.

Our initial experience of the earthquake was at our downtown lunch stop. Several customers quickly recognized the source of the vibrations and rattling silverware as an earthquake. When several Elements customers countered they believed a nearby train was the culprit, another asked, “WHAT train?”

Elements owner David Gedney, who rushed outside to check his building exterior, returned quickly to report that his damage was limited to five broken plates upstairs in his Apartment 2G dinner restaurant.

Rockland report

As the quake rolled through Rockland our northside correspondent Malcolm Barr Sr. and his wife Carol were in their kitchen. Barr, a self-acclaimed veteran of many earthquakes while working in Hawaii, strolled to his front door to see “what piece of heavy equipment neighbor Thomas McGeath was driving by on Rockland Road.” Meanwhile, Barr reported his wife was talking “Armageddon” and their future daughter-in-law in Tennessee called to see if everyone was okay.

Echoing initial reactions by some of our fellow Elements lunchtime patrons, Barr observed, “Sounded like a train rumbling by.”

While used to such occurrences during his stints in Hawaii, Barr added, “I guess since we don’t have many earthquakes around here, I couldn’t quite believe my wife when she said we were in the middle of one. Those in Hilo (Hawaii) regularly bounced things off the walls; then one of the volcanoes would treat us to another ‘fireworks’ display.”

This report will be updated as information becomes available.


Residents of 25 Shenandoah Commons Way await verdict on whether they will be able to sleep at home following earthquake damage to water lines in their building.

Residents of 25 Shenandoah Commons Way await verdict on whether they will be able to sleep at home following earthquake damage to water lines in their building.

WC Fire & Rescue Officer Marti Viggiano speaks with Shenandoah Commons residents.

WC Fire & Rescue Officer Marti Viggiano speaks with Shenandoah Commons residents.

TV 7 DC shows photo of North Anna Nuclear Power Plant after emergency diesel generators kicked in following automatic shutdown of the nuclear reactors after earthquake.

TV 7 DC shows photo of North Anna Nuclear Power Plant after emergency diesel generators kicked in following automatic shutdown of the nuclear reactors after earthquake.

Published in: on August 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm  Comments (3)  

Town gets its terms on Dominion Power H2O

Dominion Power Director of Business Development John Ragone and Front Royal Town Councilman Shae Parker shake on a deal for central water and sewer to Dominion's billion-dollar business investment in this community.

Absent Conkey blasts county silence on help with corridor expenses

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

After two weeks of intense negotiations the Front Royal Town Council approved a final version of a contract to provide central water and sewer service to Dominion Power/VEPCO’s gas-fired electrical generating facility in Warren County’s 522 North Industrial-Commercial Corridor. The planned power plant formerly known as CPV-Warren since being introduced as a means of helping meet future eastern, urban corridor power needs in 2002, is now targeted for a 2015 or 2016 opening following a 2-1/2 to 3-year construction period.

The vote came at a Special Meeting called for March 7th in the midst of a previously scheduled town council work session. The 5-0 vote, Tom Conkey was absent, came after some last minute closed session discussion. The only substantive change in the terms of the contract originally on the table since a Feb. 22nd work session was a wording change that the removed the description of the town water service as essentially an accommodation to the customer while the town has “excess capacity” in its water supply.

As explained by officials on both sides of the negotiation, that change was requested by Dominion, which did not want to go before a pending State Corporation Committee rate hearing with a utility contract essentially stating the plant’s water service could be terminated by the provider – the Town of Front Royal – at any time it deemed its water service as exclusively needed by in-town customers. The lifespan of the plant has been estimated by Dominion at half a century.

Despite not getting an additional five years of in-town service rates to compensate for a requested total of $5.4 million in up-front expenses, Dominion officials seemed relieved to get a contract guarantee in place that will allow them to explain their desired rate structure to the SCC and move development of the plant forward.

“I think we’re pleased with what happened tonight with the agreement that was reached,” Dominion spokesperson Dan Genest said following the vote. “We plan to be a part of this community for the next 40 to 50 years – and being a part of that community means getting along and working things out and settling our differences and I think the agreement tonight represents that.”

While Dominion had been seeking a reduction in up-front costs of $5.4 million, including $4 million in capital improvements to the existing system, in the end it agreed to pay those costs in exchange for a decade of reduced service costs. However, Dominion did not get the additional five years at the flat, in-town service rate it had been seeking in exchange for a $3.5-million contribution to implement a long-sought after looping system to assure service to all corridor water customers in the event of a break in the water line. Rather, the company will get the originally proposed five years at the in-town rate and an additional five years at 1.5 times the in-town rate before paying the full double rate to out-of-town customers.

While county Supervisor Tony Carter was again an interested observer to the evening’s developments, the county’s ongoing official silence on the matter of helping the town or Dominion defer their respective costs didn’t sit well with at least one councilman, Tom Conkey. Conkey and other town officials involved in the negotiation have pointed out the town will receive only its hook up and service costs, by law based solely on the cost of providing a municipal utility, while the county will realized between $3 million and $4 million per year in tax revenue almost exclusively profit.

“My only disappointment is that it seems that at least some members of the board of supervisors still see the relationship between the town and county governments as an adversarial one, rather than the partnership I believe it can and should be,” Conkey stated by way of a letter read into the record by Mayor Tim Darr. Darr explained Conkey was absent due to a previous out of town commitment. “The town’s discussions with Dominion were open and frank as partnerships should be. I think this was the perfect opportunity for our two bodies to work together to come up with an arrangement that would be mutually beneficial. As it is, we now find ourselves in the position of working our a deal with Dominion and hoping that we have done enough to ensure that this power plant is built in this community,” Conkey concluded in his letter sent to the mayor to be included as part of the meeting’s public record.

Background

The town’s exiting corridor water-sewer system began service about a quarter century ago when town utility was extended outside its boundaries to facilitate the location of the county’s first new industrial corridor client, DuPont, to build here. That utility service extension was seen as pivotal to this community attracting an increased commercial-industrial presence and tax base to keep residential costs and taxes down.

Following the 2009 legal challenge of meals tax-based fees tied to the town’s water-sewer bills by three chain corridor restaurants, the town lost a major portion of its “Corridor Agreement” fees. According to the judge’s comments, that legal decision came about in part at least due to the changing corridor tax landscape, primarily the county’s 2002 introduction of its own meals tax.

The town and county have only recently began “corridor committee” discussions of how to adjust the 1998 Corridor Agreement designed to compensate the town for its utility service allowing business and industry to locate on county land. That agreement, approved by a 3-judge state panel in 1998-99, likely headed off a contentious annexation fight between Front Royal and Warren County’s municipal governments.

Dominion had initially agreed to cover the full $490,000 cost of upgrading the system’s pumping system to assure its estimated average of 350,000 to 400,000 gallons of water per day without placing an undue strain on the system. However, it was seeking help in meeting the capital improvement expense of a looping system seen as a system-wide benefit to all corridor customers in Warren County. Some councilmen, obviously including Conkey, thought it would have been appropriate for the county to step into the recent negotiations after Dominion complained about all the additional rate and infrastructure costs it was being asked to shoulder.

The county did have a closed session “corridor contract” discussion with Dominion at its March 1st meeting. However, no announcement was forthcoming following that session.

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Up for adoption: Lester the (very large) mule

Lester the mule, background, was left homeless when his owner died recently. He was delivered to the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter on Sunday morning, July 11. A brown behemoth, Lester appears to have been sired by a Clydesdale and is a gentle giant, probably about 1,100 pounds. He enjoys the shelter’s year-old large animal enclosure, particularly in company with the diminutive Shetland pony, Pebbles (foreground). Both are up for adoption and would appreciate loving homes and a fair amount of grass to munch on. (Courtesy Photo by Michael Kearns.)

Published in: on July 15, 2010 at 7:47 am  Leave a Comment  

On The River 2010 in Front Royal cancelled

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

On July 14 the cancellation of what would have been the second annual “On The River” event slated for Aug. 21 in Front Royal was announced by organizers.

“It is with regret that the planned event OTR ’10, ‘designed to connect and reacquaint our community with the Shenandoah River,’ will not take place this year,” a press release from event Volunteer Director Tim Frees stated. “At this time the OTR Volunteer Committee would like to extend our deep appreciation to all the volunteers, vendors, exhibitors, and sponsors that stepped forward to support this year’s planned event.”

Asked for more detail about the cancellation, Frees later told us that a number of factors led to the decision.

“Water levels are a concern,” he stated about consequences of what has been a generally dry and hot spring and summer with reduced water flow in the Shenandoah River. “We wanted to match or better last year’s event and it just wasn’t coming together. We had to inform vendors whether we were going or not by an adequate date so they could make their plans and we decided to pull the plug now.”

Frees said it is currently hoped the event will be resurrected next year and stated that the OTR website will remain in tact. He also encouraged ongoing safe use of the Shenandoah River by locals and visitors alike.

“While our formal event will not take place this year, we encourage well planned river activities emphasizing water safety, environmental concerns, and family enjoyment of our great natural resource, the Shenandoah River. Front Royal remains ‘The Canoe Capital of Virginia’. Our website, http://www.canoecapital.org, will soon be updated for future OTR events,” the press release stated.

“Last year’s event, OTR ’09, was a great success,” Frees added. “The event was special due to the efforts and support of all the volunteers, vendors, exhibitors, sponsors, and especially the community. Over 200 folks participated in free canoe runs provided by Don Roberts (Front Royal Canoe) and John Gibson (Down River Canoe Company) as well as over 700 guests interacting with over 16 exhibitors coordinated by the ‘Friends of the Shenandoah River’. The event was held on the grounds of VFW Post 1860 with the tremendous assistance of the Post members and the Young Marines. Special thanks to BRAC for their support of ‘Paddle Art’.

Frees stated that the cancellation had absolutely no relationship whatsoever to recent reports of financial issues at the local VFW and the potential sale of the VFW property planned as a primary event site this year, as it was used last year.

Published in: on July 15, 2010 at 7:41 am  Leave a Comment  

EXCLUSIVE: Salahis on Letterman

By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report

EXCLUSIVE: Warren County Report has learned that Tareq and Michaele Salahi are “crashing” the taping of David Letterman’s show at the moment. Followed by “posing” for Facebook pictures.

UPDATE:

Published in: on May 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

National Zoo’s Andean bear cubs names revealed

Male Andean bear cub Bernardo at the National Zoo’s naming ceremony Wednesday, May 19. Photo: Mehgan Murphy, National Zoo.

One week and nearly 5,000 votes after the Smithsonian’s National Zoo opened the online polls to the public to name its male and female Andean bear cubs the Zoo has its winners: Chaska, pronounced Chas’-kuh, for the female and Bernardo for the male!

Animal keepers and the embassies of Peru and Venezuela submitted names for the online poll that are of Andean or South American derivation. Each name held significant meaning special to the bears or the region in which they are found. National Zoo director Dennis Kelly, along with Deputy Chief of Mission from the Embassy of Peru, Mr. Fernando Quiros, and the Charge D’Affairs from the Embassy of Venezuela, Dr. Angelo Rivero–Santos, announced the names today in a special naming ceremony.

The newly named Andean bear cubs at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo romp and climb in their outdoor exhibit prior to their naming ceremony. Bernardo, the male, is at the top of the tree stump and Chaska, the female, looks up from below. Photo: Mehgan Murphy, National Zoo.

When the polls closed on Monday, Chaska edged out Paqarina by merely 72 votes (1,799 or 37% of the total votes). Chaska, meaning the “dawn star,” was submitted by the Embassy of Peru. Bernardo, Spanish for “brave like a bear,” won by a much larger margin claiming 42% or 2,064 votes. Bernardo was submitted by the Andean bear keepers for the poll but coincidentally is also the name of the Ambassador of Venezuela, Bernardo Alvarez.

The two Andean bear cubs (also known as the spectacled bear), were born at the National Zoo to four year-old Billie Jean on Jan. 14 and 15. They are the first Andean cubs born at the National Zoo in 22 years and the only surviving Andean cubs in any North American zoo since 2005. The last surviving Andean bear cub born in North America before these two was their mother, Billie Jean.

Female Andean bear cub Chaska at the National Zoo’s naming ceremony Wednesday, May 19. Photo: Mehgan Murphy, National Zoo.

The cubs, their mother and father, Nikki, and another older female, Bandit, live at the National Zoo’s Andean bear exhibit in the Beaver Valley section of the Zoo. Due to construction on the Zoo’s seal and sea lion exhibit, Beaver Valley is closed to the public during the week but the Andean bear exhibit will be open to the public on weekends beginning May 22 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The Andean bear is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species.

Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 1:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Video: Hyperactive little brown bats in Bentonville, VA

These gross but cute little brown bats hang out each summer in an information kiosk at Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville, VA. They are like little ADHD mice with wings. They twitch constantly. It’s a great thing to show kids who have never seen a bat in the daylight–much less from just a few inches away. More on the park: www.riverparkfriends.org

Follow Dan on Twitter and Facebook.

editor@warrencountyreport.com

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Town announces sale of Shenandoah River

Move aimed at closing $700,000 budget gap, reactions mixed

By Dan McDermott and Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

FRONT ROYAL, VA, April 1, 2010 – In what opponents are calling a “desperate move to generate enthusiasm for an unnecessary tax hike,” the Front Royal Town Council voted 3-2 Monday (with one abstention) to sell the Shenandoah River for $2.4 million dollars to Frederick County, VA, which has long coveted the once-pristine waterway to feed it’s desire for more development.

Informed his abstention didn’t block the move, supported by Councilmen Sayre, Holloway and Vice Mayor Hrbek, because it did not require a “super majority” fourth vote, Shae Parker said, “Are you sure? – It is sort of like a tax increase. I mean it replaces tax revenue, doesn’t that count?”

Eighteenth District State Delegate Clifford L. “Clay” Athey said that Parker probably should not have even considered voting as an appointed member of council. “The people didn’t elect him, he’s not a Republican – why are we even talking about him?” Athey, who introduced legislation this year negating the impact of appointed municipal body officials, wondered.

In a hastily called press conference, Town Manager J. Michael Graham said the decision, while unexpected, was a smart move. “Look, the river used to be a major way to move products from New Market to Harpers Ferry. But since I-81 came along, it has clearly become a burden to maintain. It has outlived its usefulness. And frankly speaking, it’s worth a nice chunk of change, transgender fish and all!” he said.

A view of the future Great Shenandoah Trail from a scenic vista in Bentonville.

The final negotiated price for the historic and majestic river would close the town’s budget deficit for two years.

Frederick County officials say they plan to drain the river over a 16-year period provided that federal officials agree. A public hearing involving the EPA, the Virginia Water Control Board and Department of Game & Inland Fisheries is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 29, 2011.

One member of the Frederick County delegation in attendance who wished not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the board of supervisors said it was a win-win. “Look, tourists come to Front Royal to the ‘Canoe Capital’ and all that but it doesn’t say ‘River Capital’ so technically speaking there is no liability issue. And a lot of people will still swing by restaurants and gas stations as they look for the river and opt for the Skyline Drive. Plus, of course, we’ll get a [boat]load of water,” he said.

In an exclusive interview, Vice Mayor Bret Hrbek, who was a strong proponent of the idea, said it was a matter of “wading through a river of financial problems.”

“This wasn’t my first choice as you know. But there comes a time when you have to man-up and make the tough calls. Ronald Reagan would have sold it decades ago,” he said as he looked misty-eyed at a portrait of ‘the Gipper’ hanging on his office wall.

Front Royal Mayor and former town public works director Eugene Tewalt said with the decision to tear down the Riverton Dam, his decision to support the move was an easy one. “I thought the river was still good for something, or could be with a little tweaking. But once we saw the numbers on that – $500k to a million to fix to no apparent end, versus nothing, or virtually nothing, to get rid of the dam holding the river back – what the heck?! I mean the state guys told us Frederick County and Winchester are using up most of the river’s water before it gets to us anyway. If it doesn’t serve a purpose and they essentially control it already, what’s the point?”

Asked about the possible loss of recreational uses, including the canoeing that has given Front Royal the title “Canoe Capital of Virginia”, Tewalt was philosophical. “Well you know that was nice of then Vice President Gore to do that, but we didn’t even have a canoe launch point until we spent all that money fixing up the Luray Avenue boat landing last year. And one launch point – canoe capital? I think that whole nature’s calling tourist industry is more of a county thing, than of much direct value to the town.”

“What the *u@k!?!” River activist and longtime river businessman Trace Noel said. “Unfortunately, I guess we all live upstream from these guys. They just continue to astound me on an almost daily basis. I mean what are they thinking? They are going to sell a 2-billion-year-old historic river featured in movies, poems and songs for centuries so they don’t have to add $20 or so per year to real estate taxes?”

Local Tea Party activist leader Tim Ratigan was angered by the news, if from a different angle. “I don’t want the tax increases – I’m all for any alternative to that. But where are we supposed to dump our tea if push comes to shove next time around?”

Former county supervisor and county Republican Committee Chairman Matt Tederick fumed at the news. “Why didn’t they go to Fairfax or Falls Church? They just had that water authority sale decision that has nothing to do with our fund balance situation – but they surely have deeper pockets than Winchester. This is a classic example of these incumbent politicians taking a good idea and turning it to [mud].”

Questioned about the move, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Archie Fox said, “They did what? I don’t remember that coming up at liaison meetings. Can they do that on their own? Aren’t they still part of Warren County? I’m not sure this is legal.”

It did not appear to ease Fox’s mind that the state and feds apparently had the last call on whether the sale would be consummated.
County Administrator Doug Stanley also seemed taken aback at the news. “Was this Graham’s idea?” he asked. He was told it appeared to be a split council initiative. “Typical,” Stanley replied.

South River Supervisor Linda Glavis asked if the move would cost the county anything. Told the county appeared to be on the outside looking in, with no financial obligation or benefit, Glavis said, “Well, I guess that’s okay.”

North River Supervisor Glenn White seemed relieved at the news. “Maybe we can get some additional funding for the air show now. It’s going to be bigger and better than ever this year, you know. The river had its day but it is old news – it is over. But the airport and air travel and commerce transported on the wing, that is our future.”

It would seem the Front Royal Town Council, at least a portion of it, agree, at least in part, with that notion.

One is now left to wonder if a brewing annexation move by the town will shift its focus from the county’s northside commercial corridor to its southwestern corridor where that airport and adjacent land for a potential commercial and industrial complex lie.

Follow Dan on Twitter and Facebook.

Dan McDermott: editor@warrencountyreport.com
Roger Bianchini: rogerb@warrencountyreport.com

[Note, this story has been updated.]

Published in: on April 2, 2010 at 11:12 am  Comments (23)  

(Video) Small Virginia town poised to host nations’s 2nd biggest solar farm

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3422132&dest=-1]

EDA approves pending solar field lease at Avtex

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

Is a small, rural Virginia town poised to take a lead position in a U.S. move toward increased reliance on solar power – and bring the troubled 70-year story of what was the nation’s largest environmental disaster Superfund site to a happy and green ending?

On March 26, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development unanimously approved the terms of lease and purchase agreement on approximately 40 acres of what is envisioned as a 150-acre business park on reclaimed land at the Royal Phoenix site in the Town of Front Royal, some 67 miles west of Washington, D.C. The lease is tentative pending approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and FMC Corporation.

EPA is the overseer of over $26 million in federally-funded cleanup of the site, which covers a total of some 467 acres, or about 10-percent of the land in the small, rural, northwestern Virginia town of about 13,000. FMC is a federally-mandated cleanup partner and the lone surviving of three owners of the former rayon and synthetic fibers manufacturing plant opened in 1940 by American Viscose Corporation.

After 49 years as its community’s major employer and economic engine, and a major materials contributor to the Allied war effort in World War II, the then Avtex Fibers plant was closed down in 1989 by Virginia Attorney General Mary Sue Terry for ongoing violations of the state’s water-control standards.

In June of 2009 principals of SolAVerde Inc. proposed development of what could eventually be a 100 to 150-megawatt solar field on one or more sites in Front Royal. But negotiations stalled as an initially envisioned $211 private sector start-up investment morphed into a request by SolAVerde partners for an up-front $18-million investment on a 14-year pre-purchase of solar power from the project by the town.

But with other investment options being explored, including a potential, private sector partnership between SolAVerde/Standard Energy and AMP-Ohio (American Municipal Power), things appear to be regaining momentum. AMP-Ohio is a municipal energy consortium Front Royal joined three years ago.

Former Front Royal Mayor James Eastham, now a town appointee to the EDA board of directors, made the March 26 motion to approve a lease-purchase agreement on 40.6 acres of the 150-acres Royal Phoenix business park site.

Afterwards he said, “The EDA doesn’t want to be an impediment in the process of this proposed use of the entire 150-acre business park side of Royal Phoenix. The EDA is about creating jobs and this is a step in that direction.”

While the remaining acreage at the business park has yet to be released, the EDA and 10th Virginia District U.S. representative Frank Wolf are poised to seek a fast track and eased restrictions on uses at the site at a planned March 29 meeting at EDA headquarters at Royal Phoenix adjacent to the involved 40 acres.

Several hours after the EDA vote approving a pending lease-purchase of the property, this reporter sat down with Front Royal Vice-Mayor Bret Hrbek to discuss the implications of that vote and the status of the solar proposal for Front Royal.

%d bloggers like this: