Planners OK apartment, consider GIS

At its regular meeting last Wednesday (May 13), the Rappahannock County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of an efficiency apartment on the 100-acre farm of Rick Lessard in Sperryville, and, with its light agenda over, took a few minutes to discuss the possibility of bringing the county’s mapping systems into the 21st century.

Lessard’s special-use permit for the conversion of an equipment shed into a 530-square-foot apartment for farm help — something Lessard described as of increasing interest as his age increased — was to be heard for final approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals last night (Wednesday, May 27), after press time.

County/zoning administrator John McCarthy had recommended approval of the permit, as had most of Lessard’s neighbors, including Ken and Mary Thompson, and Reg Armistead, whose property overlooks the would-be apartment. “Always good to have an extra set of eyes on the farm,” Armistead told the commissioners.

After the unanimous vote to approve, McCarthy asked the commissioners to consider scheduling two more public hearing sessions, possibly in July and September, on the county’s comprehensive plan revision, which the supervisors must adopt by the end of the year. Though hearings were held at fire halls around the county starting two years ago, McCarthy suggested that new sessions would be beneficial in general to the public, and specifically to new assistant county administrator Deborah Keyser (who is viewed by many, including McCarthy, as his replacement). Among Keyser’s first projects is completing the comprehensive plan revision.

The commissioners agreed; McCarthy said he’d report back at next month’s session.

Hampton district commissioner Alvin Henry asked about the possibility that Rappahannock might upgrade its mapping system — which is still a primarily manual process for tax maps, zoning and parcel delineation (although the county’s emergency-response communications system utilizes digital mapping and incorporates databases of names, addresses and actual images of most every occupied building in the county).

“All of the counties around us now have some kind of GIS [Geographic Information System],” said Henry, a longtime real estate appraiser. “Culpeper, Madison, Fauquier, Shenandoah, and now Page.”

Henry suggested that the cost of such a system — a factor McCarthy said has always been the hurdle for its institution here — has dropped dramatically in recent years, as has the requirements for its maintenance, and the possibilities of it functioning more or less as a self-service system. “Madison’s GIS system, for example,” Henry said, “does not have one person devoted to operating it.”

Fauquier’s GIS system, which once charged fees for its usage, is now free, Henry said.

McCarthy suggested bringing in one or more of the GIS authorities from nearby jurisdictions to do a presentation for the commissioners. McCarthy said later that he hopes to schedule a presentation within a month or two.

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 544 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.