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

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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.

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Free complete print edition: Mid January, 2009

Click here to open

Inside this issue:

  • Front Royal, VA woman loses finger in domestic dispute
  • Browntown Road shooting
  • Additional charges filed in Warren County, VA house ramming incident
  • Two arrested in Papa John’s Pizza robbery
  • Be on the lookout for Daniel Eli of Bethlehem, PA
  • Driveway scams
  • Openings for Citizens Police Academy
  • R-MA teacher honored
  • State River Park attendance down
  • New Linden, VA trash site opens
  • Town of Front Royal, VA approaches liaison: Let’s talk – just not about ‘that’
  • Warren County, VA approves 5-pronged January liaison agenda
  • Capt. Richard H. Furr makes it official – applying for Front Royal, VA police chief’s job
  • Del. Clay Athey’s Report from Richmond, VA
  • Neighbors point fingers (not guns) during shooting debate
  • ‘Pawsitive Pup’ makes dog grooming more convenient
  • NFL playoffs – Still Cheering Purple Pride
  • Activities & events in Front Royal and Warren County, VA
  • Opinion: The Gaza Holocaust
  • Letter: History’s Revenge
  • Front Royal/Warren County, VA Chamber of Commerce news
  • Entire issue is free here.

Also, 2008: The Year in Review

  • 2008 – It wasn’t that great: From bad weather to a lousy economy – good riddance
  • Inventor John Kovak: Childhood machine could be key to clean energy production in Front Royal, VA
  • CPV, Dominion Power make it official – the ‘buy’ is on
  • Paying for our own noose? Front Royal, VA debates the true price of power – 50 years of coal
  • Loss of father, two young children mourned at Candlelight Vigil
  • Town of Front Royal, VA approves corridor, EDA resolutions  – Threat of litigation by Riverton Commons restaurants hovers over passage
  • First Crooked Run Center tax revenue estimates in
  • Town, FDR Services settle water-sewer rate war – Two years of litigation ends with compromise, 15-year service contract
  • Should the Dow be at 3,000? Up a grand, down a grand – Great Depression 2.0?
  • Show me the money – Brooks calls out EDA financing – EDA’s reduced municipal funding request opens a fiscal can of worms
  • Town move on EDA assets likely futile – Virginia state law protects autonomy of economic development authorities
  • Town to EDA – ‘Pretty please with sugar on top’ – Town rephrases effort to gain control of millions in EDA assets
  • Abusive driver fees’ hit the dustbin of legislative history – Refunds included in ‘civil remedial fee’ repeal signed into law by Virginia governor
  • Virginia Governor Tim Kaine cites importance of dialogue in state government
  • Va. Supreme Court rules against NVTA road taxing – Local plaintiff, delegate weigh in on decision, state funding responsibilities
  • Questions remain about Virginia state trooper collision – Public’s right to know at issue as accident investigation continues
  • Humane Society board recalled under contentious circumstances – Accusations fly over membership voting eligibility, animal care priorities
  • Wagner Shelter two weeks later – ‘a remarkable change’; In the wake of contentious board recall, humans & animals move on
  • Monk murder mystery – A personal remembrance of a soul in wonder
  • Entire issue is free here.

Your new next-door neighbor – a cemetery

Beth and Mike De Coss stand in the backyard of their Healdsburg, Calif., home on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. Their home shares a fence with Healdsburgs Oak Mount Cemetery. They say the neighborhoods quiet for the most part, except when teens decide to hang out in the cemetery after hours. (Kim Komenich / The Chronicle)

Beth and Mike De Coss stand in the backyard of their Healdsburg, Calif., home on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. Their home shares a fence with Healdsburg's Oak Mount Cemetery. They say the neighborhood's quiet for the most part, except when teens decide to hang out in the cemetery after hours. (Kim Komenich / The Chronicle)

Before moving to Northern Virginia, agent Mitzi Romiti of Jobin Realty lived in a house in Uncasville, Conn., that was adjacent to a cemetery. “We moved in when my children were 6, 9 and 12,” Romiti says. “The neighbors never bothered us, didn’t complain when we had parties, and didn’t throw wild parties themselves. We lived there for about 10 years.”

In some places, living next to a cemetery is considered a status symbol. “In Savannah, our cemeteries are coveted,” says Harry Norman’s Elaine Seabolt, who happens to live next to one in the heart of the historic district that is a huge tourist attraction.

Published in: on October 25, 2008 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

U.S. restaurant business toughest in 17 years: NRA

U.S. restaurants are enduring their toughest time in 17 years as tight credit and falling home prices compel consumers to eat out less or spend less when they do, a National Restaurant Association economist said on Wednesday.

“This is the most challenging environment for restaurant operators since 1991,” Hudson Riehle, NRA chief economist, told Reuters. “Depending on how consumer spending proceeds in the fourth quarter, it could be the most challenging environment since the early 1980s.”

Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 4:21 am  Leave a Comment  

New home construction plunged 6.3% in September

Construction of new homes plunged by a bigger-than-expected amount in September as builders slashed production to the slowest pace since early 1991, when the country was in a deep recession.

A barometer of future building also dropped to the weakest level in more than 25 years.

The building industry is on pace to construct the fewest new homes and apartments this year since the end of World War II.

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 11:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reader Response: Why Are There Any New Homes Being Built?

A reader named Paul writes in with this:

A better question is why there are any housing starts at all right now. Nothing is selling, so why are they still building?

My initial thought was that the new construction might be in the areas unaffected by the housing boom and subsequent bust – one of those “Three Americas” that Edward Glaeser wrote about a few weeks ago. So I asked Professor Glaeser what he thought.

Published in: on October 17, 2008 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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