Light, sound and fury marked the regular meetings of the Rappahannock County Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
Discussion at the Dec. 21 planning commission meeting about Narmada Winery’s request to hold special events revolved around the impact of lighting and amplified sound. According to the special exception application filed by Pandit and Sudha Patil, owners of Narmada, on U.S. 211 in Amissville, ”the applicant desires to use the winery for up to 10 weddings and other special events in a calendar year with attendance up to 250 people.” As Pandit Patil explained at the meeting, events would be held in a tent and amplified music would be between the hours of 7 and 10:30 pm.
During the public comment period for the application, Chris Parrish, the Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor who also owns property near the winery, expressed concern about the lighting in general at Narmada that spills onto adjoining properties and about any added lighting that the special events might bring. “I’m hoping that if this is approved all the lighting will be addressed on the property,” said Parrish.
In the later discussion he agreed that the Patils had adjusted the lighting from the farm buildings somewhat, but he was also concerned about lighting in the the parking area.
Tony Mehl, who runs a small farm next to Narmada, told the commissioners “my primary concerns would be the sound [coming from the events.] I am 1200 feet away and music is very clear and audible.”
But Mehl also complained about noise from fireworks, saying that “this past summer on a couple of occasions [Narmada’s] guests have had fireworks displays” that disturb his animals.
Pandit objected, saying that Narmada has fireworks only once a year in the fall, to celebrate the Hindu holiday of Diwali, celebrated in India as a days-long “Festival of Lights.”
The commissioners took the concerns about lighting and noise seriously, adding additional conditions to the application: amplified music must end at 10 p.m., fireworks could only happen once a year, and there would be no additional lighting.
They unanimously voted to recommend the application to the board of supervisors for final consideration; the supervisors were to hear the permit application case Wednesday night (Jan. 4, too late for this edition).
And now the fury
On the BZA’s agenda was a resolution to declare that board member David Konick’s September lawsuit against the BZA and its then-acting chair, Jennifer Matthews, was never authorized by the board and was thus illegal. It directed him to “obtain the dismissal with prejudice” of the lawsuit (meaning the matter would not be heard again).
Konick, acting as board secretary in Harmony Manor’s appeal to the BZA of a decision to revoke the B&B’s permit for extra bedrooms by County/Zoning Administrator Debbie Keyser, disagreed on the manner in which the hearing should be conducted. After a brief Circuit Court airing of his suit, the BZA’s Harmony Manor hearing was postponed; in October, the B&B owner dropped the appeal of Keyser’s decision entirely.
On Nov 16, Konick, a local attorney, filed a motion to drop the suit against the BZA and Matthews, though not “with prejudice.”
At the BZA’s Dec. 28 meeting, Konick asked that the resolution be removed from the agenda as “the case was dismissed 21 days ago.”
However, said board chair Alex Sharp, the suit was dismissed without prejudice. “[The rest of the board’s] view is to have it dismissed with prejudice, so that the issue is not brought up again,” Sharp said.
Sharp and Konick continued to spar, Konick asking repeatedly “on what authority” the resolution was written. Sharp replied, “I would say you’re not going to get an answer to that.” However, in a later phone call, Sharp said that the board had consulted County Attorney Art Goff about the legality of the resolution.
Konick continued to disagree, saying “you don’t have the power or authority to tell me or anyone else what is legal or not legal.”
After 16 minutes of contentious debate, Sharp asked for a motion to vote on the resolution. After the motion was seconded, four of the members voted in favor of the resolution. Konick abstained, but said, “I’ll see you in court.”
Kirchner tourist home approved
The BZA also approved a special use application from John Kirchner, present at the meeting, and Mary Walsh to operate their house in Woodville as a tourist home. The application for the property, known as Walnut Run Farm on Sperryville Pike, said that rentals would be taken through online booking sites, such as Airbnb and VRBO. In addition, rentals would be no longer than 30 days and for no more than four people. In response to questions from the board members, he said that he would reside at the house when it wasn’t rented out and that he would stay with a friend nearby when it was, so that he could manage the property.
Kirchner told the board that due to Walsh’s illness and the resulting loss of one of their incomes, “I’ve been forced to [turn the house into a tourist home.] I don’t desire to do this.”
Four members voted to approve the application. Konick abstained.
The agendas and copies of documents for these and other county meetings are available at boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public. A video recording of the Dec. 21 Planning Commission meeting can be found at youtube.com/watch?v=BrYZ6zRYQak. A video recording of the Dec. 28 BZA meeting can be found at youtube.com/watch?v=R_K8HU7Yyec. Both videos are courtesy of Kaitlin Struckmann’s Rappahannock Record YouTube channel.