During the public comment period at last week’s board of zoning appeals meeting, a Hampton resident made a series of ad hominem attacks on county officials, me included. The BZA chairman permitted “the person” to continue her offensive, but then refused to allow me to respond. Democracy, free speech and fair play at work — Rappahannock style! I appreciate the newspaper affording me the opportunity to do so here.
The facts are that I made an inquiry to then-zoning administrator John McCarthy in January 2016 about the procedure when, in 2010, the board of supervisors resolved to amend the zoning ordinance to reduce the minimum lot size for tourist homes from 10 acres to 2 acres. The trouble was, as highlighted in the story last week, that the original proposal was to do something altogether different — allow applicants to include acreage of adjoining tracts toward the 10 acre minimum, not to reduce the minimum to allow such a commercial use on a non-conforming 2 acre lot. Hence, what was advertised for public hearing was not what was approved at the board’s July 2010 meeting.
As our county attorney stated in his memorandum opinion, the statute permits “a descriptive summary” of an amendment in the legal notice, but it has to be accurate. He concluded that “a fair reading of the notice does not inform anyone that the proposed change was actually to reduce the minimum acres required for such a use by more than half.”
But for reasons about which we can only speculate, the zoning office either never retained either the publisher’s certificate for the required legal notice, or a copy of the advertisement itself, or they destroyed these documents. Back in January 2016, no one could tell me what was in the advertisement or even find it because of the change in ownership that recently occurred. I didn’t pursue the matter further, since the application that originally raised the issue had been decided and rejected on other grounds.
For my efforts to seek guidance from the county attorney on whether or not the 2010 notice of public hearing passed muster under applicable law, I was maligned at the BZA meeting as making “a sneak attack” and violating my obligation “to uphold the law and be impartial.” Mr. Goff was slandered for “improperly writing an opinion.”
Contrary to the comments from someone with an axe to grind, everybody involved did their job as the law requires, without favoritism, prejudice or the kind of cronyism that had become all too commonplace in Rappahannock County. They should be commended — not castigated — by people who don’t actually know what they are talking about — much less anything about zoning law and practice.
I say “hats off” to Art Goff, to our new interim county administrator Brenda Garton, and to David Dameron, our new zoning administrator for helping track down the records, and address a question I first posed over a year and a half ago, and finally to rectify this 2010 error.
David L. Konick