Letter: Business vs. citizens

It is a sad day in Rappahannock when its citizens are overpowered by the government that is supposed to protect them. Concerning last Wednesday night’s decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to expand a B&B permit, it is hard for me to understand the logic of the BZA members who voted yes and who persist in forcing this unwanted business on the landowners. For goodness sake! There are plenty of other locations that a B&B would be welcome with open arms!

B&Bs in general are good for the county, good for the economy and good for tourism. I am all for them; in fact, I know many of the owners who operate B&Bs in the county. I support them and welcome them. But there is absolutely no need to put them in areas where the neighbors don’t want them. There are many suitable sites where they would have no opposition.

This so-called Harmony Manor B&B has a long history of illegal activity. The previous owner operated the house, which was built as a private residence, as a B&B without the proper permits. All the current residents have had to put up with this for a number of years prior to the current owners purchasing the property.

In spite of overwhelming opposition, the BZA rewarded this historic nightmare with a legal permit to operate, leaving the neighbors shaking their heads in disbelief. They have been fighting for their rights ever since. The current owners have pushed for this permit knowing that all the citizens of Clark Lane are opposed to it.

I am not a zoning expert but I know enough about zoning to know that an engineered site plan, VDOT study and impact study should have been required for this zoning change to a commercial business before a permit was ever issued. That is Zoning 101. None of this was done.

Fundamental changes need to be made to our zoning system, and we should have a better checks and balances system. Currently all the power seems to be with the BZA, as they can overrule the county administrator and planning commission. Rule by minority is not the American way! Whatever happened to “of the people, by the people, for the people”? Perhaps we should consider a system where two of the three authorities voting against a proposal would make it dead in the water.

Better wake up Rappahannock! Your personal property rights may be under attack — not by eminent domain, but by your own fellow citizens. Is it now our county’s position that it supports business over its private citizens’ rights? I hope and pray that is not the case.

Sam Snead

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