Neigh­bors ob­ject; plan­ners re­ject fam­ily apart­ment

Rappahannock News - - FROM PAGE ONE • NEWS - By Matt Wing­field Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

The Rap­pa­han­nock County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ap­proved one hous­ing per­mit while deny­ing an­other at its monthly meet­ing Wed­nes­day night (March 19).

The plan­ners also voted to ta­ble Cliff Miller’s ap­pli­ca­tion for a nine-hole golf course in Sper­ryville at Miller’s re­quest; he was called out of town un­ex­pect­edly, County Ad­min­is­tra­tor John McCarthy said, and asked that the mat­ter be con­tin­ued un­til he could be present in April.

The ul­ti­mately dis­ap­proved ap­pli­ca­tion was from Castle­ton res­i­dent He­len Berry, who wanted to build a fam­ily apart­ment on her 9-acre property for her nephew.

Mul­ti­ple neigh­bors, how­ever, spoke against the idea, which sev­eral com­mis­sion­ers ad­mit­ted was a first. Berry’s neighbor Vir­ginia Comp­ton was the first to speak out, say­ing that in re­cent months “all hell [has] broke[n] loose.” Comp­ton said her neigh­bors were con­stantly mak­ing noise, “cussing and fuss­ing amongst each other” and said there were “17 people” liv­ing in the house. “I can’t take this any­more,” she con­cluded.

Stonewall-Hawthorne su­per­vi­sor Chris Par­rish, speak­ing on be­half of his sis­ter who owns an ad­join­ing property, voiced sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments. “He­len has a heart of gold,” Par­rish said, “and she does take in a lot of people . . . My ten­ants don’t feel quite as strongly as Vir­ginia, but they’re still distraught by all the com­mo­tion over there at times.”

Par­rish’s wife Caro­line echoed his thoughts, adding that there were some­times 14 or 15 cars on the property and that she was con­cerned that num­ber would in­crease with a fam­ily apart­ment.

Comp­ton’s son David Comp­ton spoke next and likened the noise from the Berry property as “a war zone . . . It’s ter­ri­ble over there; you can’t get any peace at all.”

Af­ter the pub­lic com­ment sec­tion was closed, Jack­son district rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ron Fra­zier said his main con­cern was the property’s drain field, which he thought might al­ready be over­taxed. Fra­zier sug­gested the drain field and well be in­spected by the health depart­ment be­fore con­sid­er­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“I’ve never seen people come out and speak against a fam­ily apart­ment,” Fra­zier added, “and they’ve been every­where, in ev­ery mag­is­te­rial district. I’ve never seen it be­fore.”

“It’d be nice if you all could get along,” sighed Hamp­ton district com­mis­sioner Alvin Henry. “You do have the right to add onto your property . . . but I don’t see any good com­ing out of this.”

Stonewall-Hawthorne com­mis­sioner Gary Light was the last to speak, and echoed many of his fel­low com­mis­sion­ers’ thoughts. “I don’t think we’d be do­ing our jobs if we ap­proved this, sorry to say,” Light said be­fore mak­ing a mo­tion to deny the per­mit.

That mo­tion was ap­proved unan­i­mously, 6-0. ( Chair­man Charles Strittmat­ter was ab­sent.) Nonethe­less, the per­mit was to go be­fore the Board of Zon­ing Ap­peals (BZA) at last night’s (March 26) meet­ing for fi­nal ap­proval.

“And they don’t al­ways lis­ten to us,” Henry said.

The com­mis­sion­ers had first con­sid­ered an ap­pli­ca­tion from Sper­ryville res­i­dent Mar­garet Price, who re­quested per­mis­sion to build a sec­ond dwelling on her 84-acre property. Price said the house was built in the 1970s, and her “whole fam­ily — sev­eral gen­er­a­tions — gath­ers there. I’d like to have some more space.”

A sec­ond dwelling is al­lowed by right, McCarthy ex­plained, on prop­er­ties that meet a cer­tain den­sity re­quire­ment. One dwelling per 50 acres is al­lowed as ten­ant hous­ing; since Price’s ap­pli­ca­tion fell short of that, McCarthy said, a spe­cial ex­cep­tion was re­quired, but it still ex­ceeded the min­i­mum set forth in the county’s or­di­nance (one per 25 acres). This was only the sixth such ap­pli­ca­tion the com­mis­sion­ers had con­sid­ered, McCarthy added, and all five pre­vi­ous ones had been ap­proved.

That trend con­tin­ued Wed­nes­day, as none of the com­mis­sion­ers had ob­jec­tions, unan­i­mously ap­prov­ing it, 6-0.

Golf course tabled again

At last month’s meet­ing, the plan­ners re­quested Miller ob­tain com­ments from Rap­pa­han­nock Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive (REC) on their feel­ings to­ward the course, per­form well tests to en­sure the course wouldn’t af­fect the rest of the town and pos­si­bly re­design the fifth hole.

McCarthy said Miller sub­mit­ted com­ments from REC (who ap­proved of the course) and a pro­posal for drilling a new well specif­i­cally for the course just in time for last night’s meet­ing. “You can see why no one’s been able to get out there and test the wells yet,” McCarthy said, ges­tur­ing around to the sev­eral inches of snow still cov­er­ing much of the county.

While the new well has not been dug, McCarthy said Miller’s pro­posal out­lines his plans for dig­ging a new well, as well as the var­i­ous tests that will be con­ducted on it. McCarthy said it’s up to the plan­ning com­mis­sion to de­cide if that’s enough to al­low the course.

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