BZA ‘bickering’ draws public’s ire

Family apts, tourist home approved; Konick, Matthews settle suit

When, more than two hours into last Wednesday’s arguably tiresome Rappahannock County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, Rappahannock resident Page Glennie scolded two board members to “stop bickering,” other members of the public in attendance burst into applause.

Unfortunately, Glennie’s appeal was not heeded. For much of the almost three-hour meeting, BZA member David Konick and Chair Alex Sharp engaged in the time-honored games of “You’re wrong; no you are” and “Don’t interrupt me; I didn’t interrupt you.”

It didn’t help that much of the time they were arguing over obtusely written state and local regulations regarding notification of property owners in special use and special exception permit applications, and that Konick seemed to want to use the meeting to air various grievances.

The meeting began pleasantly enough with the announcement that Konick and Vice Chair Jennifer Matthews had agreed to a settlement of a disagreement last September that resulted in Konick suing the BZA and the BZA censuring Konick in return.

The settlement, announced after a closed session, releases both Konick and Matthews from any claims and seeks the Virginia state attorney general’s opinion on a matter of adjacent landowner rights in an appeal of a BZA decision.

In a phone call Tuesday, Sharp called the settlement “a practical move.”

Contentious application

Berkley von Feilitzsch appeared before the board to discuss her application for a special use permit to use her home in Amissville as a tourist home. The application came before the Rappahannock County Planning Commission in May, but was tabled because it appeared that some of the adjacent property owners had not been notified of the application and subsequent public hearing, as required by law.

Before von Feilitzsch could speak, Konick called a “point of order. This application can’t be heard tonight because it was not properly noticed…. I respectfully suggest we continue the public hearing till next month and the planning commission can give proper notice.”

At issue this time, Konick explained, was a letter from Zoning Administrator Dave Dameron notifying the Culpeper County Administrator of von Feilitzsch’s application, as part of her property is in Culpeper County.

Konick explained that Dameron’s letter incorrectly stated that the public hearing would be before the BZA rather than the planning commission.

“I think you’re wrong,” said Sharp, setting off several minutes of disagreement between the two about the meaning of state code section 15.2-2204, the aforementioned obtusely written regulation.

Eventually Chris Bird, the Planning Commission representative to the BZA, intervened. “Absent notice from any aggrieved person, we should move on with the hearing,” he said. The board voted four to one to approve the motion, Konick’s being the only dissenting vote.

(In an email Tuesday, Konick provided the BZA rule that states, in part, “In all cases in which legal notice of a public hearing is required, written notice shall be given to … all owners of land adjacent to the subject land as shown on Tax Maps of Rappahannock County.”)

Twelve minutes after she had been sworn in, von Feilitzsch was finally able to speak. She told the board that she and her husband had raised their three children on the over 200-acre farm.

“Our work calls us away [to North Carolina],” she said, “but we want to keep the farm. We tried to come up with a plan … so that the property could stay a farm and create income.”

She agreed to abide by conditions discussed at the May planners meeting, but the notes of that meeting were too sketchy to provide guidance.

“Unfortunately, the Planning Commission just referred to the conditions, but did not enumerate them,” said Sharp in the Tuesday phone call.

Karen Hunt, a neighbor of von Feilitzcsh, said she had taken good notes at the commission meeting. She and her notes helped the BZA reconstruct the conditions. Sharp and Konick, in a rare moment of agreement, worked together to craft the resolution, which included no ATVs, fireworks, or other excessive noise; downward shielded lighting; and easy contact with managers or neighbors, in case of emergency.

Hunt and another neighbor, Bob Klaus, spoke in favor of the application. Chris Parrish, the Stonewall-Hawthorne district supervisor expressed support on behalf of one of von Feilitzsch’s neighbors who could not attend the meeting.

George Sonnett, who lives on Harris Hollow Road, spoke about the tourist homes, in general.

“The standards for tourist homes are non-existent,” he said. “A tourist home implies that it was someone’s home before it was a tourist home, but the applicant doesn’t even have to live there.”

An hour later, the BZA voted unanimously to approve the application.

Apartments approved

Two special use applications for family apartments were approved unanimously after brief discussion.

Abree Silver, Andy Silver, and Rigel Whytsell requested the permit for their house in Amissville to “finish our basement into a livable space for our ailing mother,” according to the application.

And David and Birgitte Thornhill applied for a special use permit for a family apartment on their property in Boston. They told the board that they intend to renovate the top floor of a barn into a residence for their son and daughter-in-law.

Unedited video of the August 23 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting can be found online at rappnews.com/video, or on the newspaper’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/RappNewsPlus. The meeting agenda and related documents are online at boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public.

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About Patty Hardee 164 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.

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