Neighbors object; planners reject family apartment

The Rappahannock County Planning Commission approved one housing permit while denying another at its monthly meeting Wednesday night (March 19).

The planners also voted to table Cliff Miller’s application for a nine-hole golf course in Sperryville at Miller’s request; he was called out of town unexpectedly, County Administrator John McCarthy said, and asked that the matter be continued until he could be present in April.

The ultimately disapproved application was from Castleton resident Helen Berry, who wanted to build a family apartment on her 9-acre property for her nephew.

Multiple neighbors, however, spoke against the idea, which several commissioners admitted was a first. Berry’s neighbor Virginia Compton was the first to speak out, saying that in recent months “all hell [has] broke[n] loose.” Compton said her neighbors were constantly making noise, “cussing and fussing amongst each other” and said there were “17 people” living in the house. “I can’t take this anymore,” she concluded.

Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor Chris Parrish, speaking on behalf of his sister who owns an adjoining property, voiced similar sentiments. “Helen has a heart of gold,” Parrish said, “and she does take in a lot of people . . . My tenants don’t feel quite as strongly as Virginia, but they’re still distraught by all the commotion over there at times.”

Parrish’s wife Caroline echoed his thoughts, adding that there were sometimes 14 or 15 cars on the property and that she was concerned that number would increase with a family apartment.

Compton’s son David Compton spoke next and likened the noise from the Berry property as “a war zone . . . It’s terrible over there; you can’t get any peace at all.”

After the public comment section was closed, Jackson district representative Ron Frazier said his main concern was the property’s drain field, which he thought might already be overtaxed. Frazier suggested the drain field and well be inspected by the health department before considering the application.

“I’ve never seen people come out and speak against a family apartment,” Frazier added, “and they’ve been everywhere, in every magisterial district. I’ve never seen it before.”

“It’d be nice if you all could get along,” sighed Hampton district commissioner Alvin Henry. “You do have the right to add onto your property . . . but I don’t see any good coming out of this.”

Stonewall-Hawthorne commissioner Gary Light was the last to speak, and echoed many of his fellow commissioners’ thoughts. “I don’t think we’d be doing our jobs if we approved this, sorry to say,” Light said before making a motion to deny the permit.

That motion was approved unanimously, 6-0. (Chairman Charles Strittmatter was absent.) Nonetheless, the permit was to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) at last night’s (March 26) meeting for final approval.

“And they don’t always listen to us,” Henry said.

The commissioners had first considered an application from Sperryville resident Margaret Price, who requested permission to build a second dwelling on her 84-acre property. Price said the house was built in the 1970s, and her “whole family — several generations — gathers there. I’d like to have some more space.”

A second dwelling is allowed by right, McCarthy explained, on properties that meet a certain density requirement. One dwelling per 50 acres is allowed as tenant housing; since Price’s application fell short of that, McCarthy said, a special exception was required, but it still exceeded the minimum set forth in the county’s ordinance (one per 25 acres). This was only the sixth such application the commissioners had considered, McCarthy added, and all five previous ones had been approved.

That trend continued Wednesday, as none of the commissioners had objections, unanimously approving it, 6-0.

Golf course tabled again

At last month’s meeting, the planners requested Miller obtain comments from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) on their feelings toward the course, perform well tests to ensure the course wouldn’t affect the rest of the town and possibly redesign the fifth hole.

McCarthy said Miller submitted comments from REC (who approved of the course) and a proposal for drilling a new well specifically for the course just in time for last night’s meeting. “You can see why no one’s been able to get out there and test the wells yet,” McCarthy said, gesturing around to the several inches of snow still covering much of the county.

While the new well has not been dug, McCarthy said Miller’s proposal outlines his plans for digging a new well, as well as the various tests that will be conducted on it. McCarthy said it’s up to the planning commission to decide if that’s enough to allow the course.

The application will most likely be resumed at the commission’s April meeting.