Barn can stay, zoning board says

The Rappahannock County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a setback variance request at its monthly meeting Wednesday night (May 28).

The lone request before the BZA came from Kirk Mueller, who sought a setback distance exemption from the board. Mueller said he’d purchased a home in Amissville in 2011 and added a small barn on the property six months later.

At that time, Mueller said he’d enlisted the services of a contractor who had mistakenly told him he didn’t need a permit for the barn. Furthermore, the county requires a 75-foot setback from the right of way for structures like this; Mueller’s barn is only 60 feet back.

This all came to a head, Mueller said, when he put the house up for sale and the building inspector he’d hired informed him only the property’s garage was permitted. Mueller, who said he was on the verge of closing a deal on the house, asked the BZA to allow him to keep the barn 60 feet back from the right of way, rather than force him to move it or rebuild it.

Mueller explained there simply weren’t many places on the property where he could move the barn, and that doing so would be “a major undertaking.” None of his neighbors objected to the barn, Mueller said, adding that closing a deal for the house was dependent on the permit.

“As an explanation, and not an excuse,” Mueller explained he wasn’t aware of the setback requirements when he commissioned the barn. His contractor, he added, hasn’t answered any of his recent phone calls.

“He relied on someone who should have known better,” said county administrator John McCarthy. “You have no legal recourse,” he added when chairman Robert Weinberg suggested sending a letter to the contractor informing him of his mistake, “but shame is not an unusual tool.”

“It seems to me this is a reasonable, obvious mistake,” said Christopher Bird. “It’s unobnoxious . . . We can approve this without creating a horrible precedent.”

The rest of the board agreed, and unanimously approved Mueller’s request, 4-0. (William Anderson was absent.)