WINCHESTER — The city’s personal property tax rate is expected to hold steady this year at $4.80 per each $100 of a vehicle’s assessed value.
Winchester Commissioner of the Revenue Ann Burkholder informed City Council on Tuesday that she foresees no change from the current rate, which factors in an anticipated $2.6 million in tax relief revenues from the state courtesy of the Personal Property Tax Relief Act adopted by the General Assembly in 1998.
If the proposed $4.80 rate is approved by council, city residents can expect their 2020 personal property tax bills to stay the same unless the assessed value of their car, truck, motorcycle or trailer has changed since last year.
Councilors voted unanimously to forward the proposed rate to their Jan. 28 meeting for further discussion.
In other business at Tuesday night’s meeting and work session, City Council:
- Heard from three area residents who want council to investigate City Manager Eden Freeman’s actions with the Winchester Fire and Rescue Department. Calls for an investigation began in November after Fire and Rescue Chief William Garrett was out of the office for several days. His absence was never fully explained, but Garrett’s supporters contend he was suspended by Freeman for speaking against proposed changes to the city’s employee benefits package. In December, council was advised by City Attorney Melisa G. Michelsen that it had the authority to investigate Freeman’s personnel policies and practices, but no investigation has been announced. Freeman has denied suspending Garrett.
- Held a first reading of Shenandoah University’s proposal to manage and improve the baseball and softball fields in Jim Barnett Park.
- Voted unanimously to approve an ordinance clarifying that property owners are required to pay water and sewer availability fees before the city issues a building permit.
- Voted unanimously to table for one month a conditional-use permit request from Evan Riggleman. Riggleman wants to offer a two-story, three-bedroom house at 346 Virginia Ave. as a short-term rental advertised through online services such as Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway and Craigslist. He leases the house from Kristi Hardy of Leesburg, but neither he nor Hardy intend to be at the home when guests are staying there.
- Voted unanimously to continue until Feb. 11 a conditional-use permit request that would allow Bellview Apartments at 1644-1660 S. Braddock St. to install a concrete pad for a dumpster on what is legally considered to be the apartment complex’s front yard.
- Voted 7-1-1 to forward a conditional-use permit request that would allow Winchester Baseball to open a clubhouse with a batting cage inside the Blue and Gray Mall at 2640 Valley Ave. Councilor Judy McKiernan opposed the request due to concerns about noise from the batting cage bothering other tenants of the building, and Councilor John Willingham abstained due to a potential conflict of interest.
- Voted 8-1 to forward a series of proposed amendments to city zoning ordinances regarding small-cell telecommunications facilities. The amendments are required by the state, but Councilor Bill Wiley opposed the measure because he worries about how the devices will look if installed on Winchester’s historic buildings.
- Voted unanimously to reappoint Councilor John Hill to a second one-year term as vice mayor.
- Voted unanimously to appoint Ronald Mislowsky to a three-year term on the Frederick-Winchester Service Authority, expiring Jan. 13, 2023.
- Voted unanimously to reappoint Mark Loring to a four-year term on the Planning Commission, expiring Jan. 13, 2024, and Elizabeth Minor to a three-year term on the Old Town Advancement Commission, expiring Jan. 13, 2023.
- Unanimously agreed to forward the reappointment of Winchester Police Chief John Piper to a four-year term on the Regional Jail Authority, expiring Jan. 27, 2024.
Attending Tuesday night’s City Council meeting and work session at John Kerr Elementary School were Mayor and council President David Smith, Vice President Evan Clark, Vice Mayor John Hill and councilors Kim Herbstritt, John Willingham, Bill Wiley, Judy McKiernan, Corey Sullivan and Les Veach.