Residents in Front Royal, Virginia have raised a legal challenge to a vote taken by their Town Council on July 28th, when officials approved rezoning of land for a Wal-Mart supercenter by a vote of 3-0-1. The Council had been stymied for months by the refusal of one Council member, Fred Foster, to show up to vote on the project. Foster, who was against the rezoning, voted with his feet by refusing to give the Council a quorum. Wal-Mart wants to build a 184,000 s.f. supercenter in a floodplain overlay district on the banks of a fork of the Shenandoah River. The citizens group Save Our Gateway has filed a lawsuit charging that 1) there was no valid quorum for the first two meetings at which rezoning was taken up, 2) that the superstore is not compatible with the town’s comprehensive land use plan, and 3) the Council’s decision was “so unreasonable that they are not fairly debatable.” The lawsuit was field against the town, Wal-Mart Real Estate, and the landowners. “We filed on issues of law, of procedure, that have a basis in law and fact,” one member of SOG told the Northern Virginia Daily. “We’re trying to reverse the process, not delay the process.” A Wal-Mart spokesman told the newspaper that his company spent “countless hours of meetings on this”, as if rezoning was based on a time commitment. “We have not only met but exceeded the development guidelines for this location,” Wal-Mart said. The citizens said they knew a legal challenge would be “lengthy and expensive”, but vowed to riase the money needed to “stay the course”.
One of the Town Council members who made up the July 28th quorum, was a member who had a conflict of interest. Citizens maintain that even though he abstained from the vote on July 28th, that he should have left the room and not been part of the quorum. The Council member was directed by Front Royal Mayor Bob Tennett, Jr. to stay in the room. Another Council member left the room because of a conflict also — but did not heed the Mayor’s request that he remain. For a similar story about Wal-Mart building in a floodplain while facing a legal challenge, search this database for “Decorah, Iowa”. In that town, the courts ruled that Wal-Mart had illegally built in a floodplain. Residents there asked the courts to make Wal-Mart tear the building down. For more on “Front Royal”, see earlier stories on Newsflash.