Neighbor opposition to a special exception permit to hold events at Thornton Hill Farm outside Sperryville was ratcheted up several levels Friday with the issuance of a letter from a Fairfax law firm representing a dozen neighbors of the 158-acre parcel along Route 522.
In April, Bill Fletcher, owner of the property, submitted an application to the county requesting a blanket permit to hold up to 31 events a year, some of which could attract as many as 8,000 people. In comparison, the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Department’s annual Fourth of July fireworks event held at the property draws about 2,500 people.
Gifford Hampshire, a principal in the law firm Blankingship and Keith, addressed a five-page letter to the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission opposing the application.
“Our clients object to the Application because it requests action that would be [beyond] the County’s authority to issue special permits and because approval of the permits would be in contradiction to well-established precedent from the Supreme Court of Virginia,” Hampshire wrote.
He refers specifically to an opinion letter issued May 29 by the Rappahannock County Attorney Art Goff at the request of then County Administrator/Zoning Administrator Debbie Keyser.
Keyser wanted Goff’s opinion on whether the county’s ordinance allowed an applicant for several events to waive the requirement to apply for and obtain a special exception permit for each individual event.
Goff, in this letter wrote, “It is my opinion that a … special exception for each separate event in not required.”
Also on Friday, Clair Catlett, field representative of the Piedmont Environmental Council, also wrote in opposition to the application.
In her three-page letter addressed to the planning commission, she states, “We have significant concerns about the types of uses being proposed, the scale of the proposed events, and the consistency of the application with sound planning policy being applied to all land use requests.”
Also released last week was a video taken by the closest neighbor to Thornton Hill Farm documenting the noise and light pollution experienced from his front porch during the Fourth of July fireworks.
The Planning Commission took up the application at its May and June meetings before voting to refer it to the board of supervisors. The supervisors, after hearing opposition from numerous neighbors and others at their July meeting, voted to send the application back to the planning commission, which will take it up again at their meeting 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 19.
The letters, video and other materials can be found on the County website Boarddocs at boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public. The July 20 edition of the Rappahannock News will have more complete coverage.