Alnell Farms application again tabled; second LOVE sign proposed
“What just happened?” asked long time county resident Ron Makela during the public comment period of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors evening meeting session on Sept. 6.
Makela’s question, which drew laughter from other members of the public, seemed to resonate throughout the meeting as confusion piled on confusion and tempers ran high.
His comment came after a confusing discussion of a special exception (SE) application that has bounced between the BOS and the county Planning Commission since May.
Susan Kummli and Stephanie Gorman submitted the SE application in April for a conference/event center at Alnell Farms off Jericho Road north of Flint Hill. The application included a request for a special use permit for a tourist home on the property, which the county Board of Zoning Appeals approved in July.
Extensive neighbor opposition to the application, as well as questions of whether the public hearing had been properly noticed, prompted the BOS or the Planning Commission to table the application multiple times.
At the September BOS meeting, new information was presented by the applicants. Jackson district supervisor Ron Frazier expressed concern that this new data had not had a chance to be heard and commented on by the property’s neighbors and the public.
“I’m frustrated myself,” said Frazier, adding that because the application had apparently been incomplete, “it is in the best interest of the community to wait one more month” before considering it. In the meantime, the application would be properly noticed.
The evening session agenda also included a proposed resolution prepared by Rappahannock County Attorney Art Goff and county Zoning Administrator David Dameron suggesting certain amendments to the county zoning ordinance. If approved, the amendments would combine the special use and special exception permitting process into one type of permit which would be considered by the Planning Commission and then the BOS. The BZA, which now hears special use applications after they have been recommended by the planners, would then only hear variances and appeals.
The amendments would also attempt to clarify the acreage requirements for tourist homes and B&Bs.
Goff, who presented the resolution, suggested that the BOS hold the public hearing on the amendments and vote on the resolution at its Nov. 6 meeting.
Frazier expressed concern about what he perceived as “fast tracking” the amendments. He also wondered why other proposed amendments assembled and discussed for over a year by the Planning Commission were not also being considered for approval.
“We need to vote on one comprehensive fix [to the zoning ordinance] rather than doing this piecemeal,” he said. “[This resolution] doesn’t fix anything.”
The Planning Commission’s suggested amendments include changes to the standards for tourist homes, B&Bs, and other transient lodging types.
After almost 45 minutes of heated discussion, including appeals to Frazier to stop shouting, the BOS passed the resolution with one change.
Meanwhile, the BOS voted to support a proposed temporary LOVE sign to be placed on empty land between the Rappahannock County Visitors Center and the county library. Theresa Wood, chair of Businesses of Rappahannock who is spearheading the effort for a LOVE sign, emphasized that the board’s support would not include committing funds. Instead, board support would lend weight to grant applications, she said.
A large LOVE sign already exists at the Rt. 211 entrance into Rappahannock County from Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.
Other BOS business
By comparison to the evening session, the afternoon session of the Sept. 6 meeting was almost jocular.
Washington resident Allan Comp presented the report of the Rappahannock County Historic Buildings Task Force. The report included findings and recommendations for repairing and maintaining the county’s buildings on Courthouse Row. He talked specifically about the white church on Gay Street that houses the RAAC Community Theatre and suggested that the board might consider selling the building and using the proceeds to pay for repairs to the historic structures.
In a related discussion, the interim Rappahannock County Administrator Brenda Garton told the BOS that a closet would be built in the jury room of the courthouse to store the county’s audio equipment. She also said that the county had received estimates from two companies to replace the handicap ramp at the Rappahannock County Courthouse to bring it up to code.
The board decided to discuss at its Oct. 2 meeting whether or not the Emergency Management Coordinator needed to be an EMT, as recommended by county fire chiefs.
Regarding hiring a permanent county administrator, Garton told the BOS that she would assemble a package of applications for the board members to consider. The deadline for receiving applications is Sept. 16. The board agreed to hold a special closed meeting on Sept. 21 to discuss the applications.
Lesinski observed that Garton has been going “above and beyond the call of duty.” He said he was open to her being compensated for the additional work. They discussed having a closed session to review her contract and compensation.
Jane Whitfield updated the board on the Rappahannock Multi-Use Trails Project, for which she plans to apply for a VDOT TAP (Transportation Alternatives Program) Grant. The board passed a resolution of support for this grant application at its Aug. 7 meeting.
Luke Christopher contributed to this report.