Ready, set, golf!

Planners approve Miller’s Sperryville golf course

After several months of consideration, the Rappahannock County Planning Commission unanimously approved Cliff Miller IV’s nine-hole golf course Wednesday night (May 21).

The par-three course, originally proposed to the commissioners in November, would cover roughly 1.2 acres of Miller’s Sperryville property. The proposal goes before the county supervisors Monday (June 2) for final consideration.

Detail of Cliff Miller IV’s planned schoolhouse golf course, which was finally approved at Wednesday’s planning commission meeting.
Detail of Cliff Miller IV’s planned schoolhouse golf course, which was finally approved at Wednesday’s planning commission meeting.

County Administrator John McCarthy said Tuesday (May 27) that he expects the supervisors will follow the planning commission’s recommendations when voting. Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor Chris Parrish said he’ll vote in favor of the course — if Miller uses the available greywater (wastewater from the nearby sewage plant) to water the course, which would, McCarthy added, require a permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

“It would take a very short pipe to get [the greywater] over there,” Parrish said.

The planning commission originally amended the county ordinance to allow a smaller golf course back in November, and at subsequent meetings asked Miller and his designers to address concerns like stray golf balls hitting U.S. 211 or the nearby power station.

Most pressingly, the commissioners were concerned with what effect, if any, Miller’s use of water would have on the other Sperryville wells, postponing a decision on the course until Miller was able to conduct well stress tests.

Water usage was the night’s big issue, as several members of the public, as well as the commissioners, had questions about it. Sperryville’s Bill Taylor, who had an application for a second dwelling before the planners Wednesday night, admitted he was concerned about Miller’s water and chemical usage affecting his (hand-dug) well, but added that it “may not have an effect at all.”

Though she didn’t share any water-based fears, Flint Hill resident Beth Plentovich spoke against the course, comparing its approval to boiling a frog so slowly it doesn’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late. “It doesn’t look like a rural area, it doesn’t look natural . . . I lived in Tidewater, Va. for 30 years . . . [and] I don’t want to see Rappahannock go that way.”

Stonewall-Hawthorne commissioner Gary Light was the first board member to speak, and thanked Miller for his redesigns and willingness to accommodate the commission’s requests. “There are a lot of benefits to having it,” Light admitted, “ . . . [and] I’d prefer it to four houses [on that land].”

However, Light questioned the necessity (and impact) of drawing 10,000 gallons of water a day from any well in Sperryville, and lobbied for a reduced amount. “A pump down test this time of year doesn’t tell us much,” Light said, especially as it rained during the test (thereby replenishing the water supplies) and most of Miller’s usage would come during the dry summer months.

Vincent Day then presented the results from his recent well test, in which he drew 48,000 gallons from Miller’s well over a 24-hour period. The well was 90-percent recovered within three hours, Day said, which — while somewhat assisted by the rain — was still remarkable.

After analyzing the very minimal effects the pump test had had on surrounding wells, Day’s conclusion was that, even when factoring in a potential summer drought, the wells in Sperryville “are strong and can handle that kind of pumping [of 10,000 gallons a day].”

Light was still uneasy after the presentation, however, and suggested the commissioners could require Miller use less than 10,000 gallons a day as part of the permit’s approval. McCarthy said a meter could be attached to Miller’s well to measure his usage; otherwise, McCarthy said there simply wasn’t a feasible way to enforce such a limit.

“He’s got the best well in Sperryville,” countered Hampton district’s Alvin Henry. “Are we like the federal government — creating extra paperwork just because we can? . . . I try to approach everything I do in a common-sense manner, and there are far greater harms this land could be put to as agricultural use . . . I think it’s a good use, and he’s demonstrated adequate concern. He’s done more on this than any application we’ve ever had.”

“We’re headed for overkill here,” agreed Jackson district commissioner Raymond Brown. “He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”

With that, the commissioners put it to a vote — which was approved unanimously (5-0), despite the expressed misgivings from Light and Ron Frazier, the board of supervisors representative to the planning commission. (Chairman Charles Strittmatter was absent and Alexander Sharp recused himself.)

There were, however, some conditions attached to the permit to be considered by the supervisors at their June 2 meeting. Specifically, McCarthy said Miller will have to conform to the site plan and other materials he’s provided; will use no more than 10,000 gallons of water a day; will only irrigate the tee boxes, greens and ornamental plantings; and must provide a nutrient management disclosure plan (where required by law).

Second dwelling approved

In a brief application prior to the golf course, Taylor sought a permit to put a second dwelling — one for his daughter and her family — on his 80-acre parcel of land on Old Hollow Road.

“It seems like it would have a fairly minimal impact,” said Sharp. The commissioners’ only caveat was that Taylor would need a separate well and septic system for the house, which Taylor said he would obtain.

The permit was unanimously approved, 6-0. Like Miller’s golf course, Taylor’s request also goes before the supervisors on June 2.