Letter: County needs to change special-use process

Imagine waking up to find out your next-door neighbor had moved and turned their home into a junkyard or a chicken fertilizer plant or even a race track. Well, in Rappahannock County that can happen without your even knowing it.

That’s what happened to numerous residents on South Poes Road who experienced a significant error by county zoning authorities when they granted a special-use permit allowing a large commercial dog kennel to open on an adjoining property without due notice.

This kennel is extremely noisy at times, with strong smells of dog manure, upsetting the serenity of its neighbors, and is less than 800 feet from two different residents’ bedroom windows.

The county claims an error in the tax map caused the notice to be mailed to the wrong residents, miles from the subject property. Since the property was far enough away from the notified residents, no one opposed the kennel and the special-use permit was granted. Despite calls to revisit the error, Rappahannock County refuses, claiming that minimum requirements were met. Apparently the “requirement” is an advertisement in any local newspaper. This means unless you read the specific newspaper in the specific section, they can approve any number of special-use permits without your knowing it.

For this property owner, that is not enough. If those affected do not subscribe to the newspaper and scour the pages each week, a property owner has no opportunity to voice concerns about any number of businesses creating noises, pungent odors or messes setting up shop next door. This is what happened with the special-use permit for the dog kennel. To make matters worse, the owner of the kennel apparently does not even live on the premises and is not even a Rappahannock County resident.

Something needs to be done to allow us to protect our serenity and property values. Rappahannock County should adopt measures that many Virginia counties already adhere to. Namely, since the tax maps are inaccurate, 911 addresses should be used when notifying affected property owners by certified mail. In addition, individuals seeking special-use permits should be required to post a notice in a conspicuous place on the road front near the driveway entrance; and if said property is not located on a main road, then a sign should be placed on the main road anyway to notify those who may adjoin from other roadways. This will allow residents to voice concerns and the county to apply conditions to the permit in answering those concerns.

We need to protect our properties and the peaceful existence that was the very reason why we chose to make our home in Rappahannock County, and we need your help. So please call or email your county supervisor, so that what happened to the residents of South Poes Road doesn’t happen to you.

Kathi Mills

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