Interim administrator cites new pick’s high ‘integrity’
Zoning amendments sent back to county planners
On the morning after Election Day, the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors named Garrey W. Curry, Jr., as the new county administrator. Curry, who hails from Gloucester County, will begin his employment on Jan. 1, 2018, nearly six months after former administrator Debbie Keyser resigned.
The announcement was made in a continuation of the BOS’ regular meeting begun Monday, Nov. 6.
“During the interview process I was extremely impressed with Mr. Curry’s high level of integrity and capacity to approach problems in a calm manner,” newly re-elected Stonewall-Hawthorne district Supervisor Chris Parrish told the Rappahannock News on Wednesday afternoon.
A press release issued by interim county administrator Brenda Garton states that Curry was “selected from a pool of highly qualified candidates.”
Curry has worked for 13 years in Gloucester, where he served first as the director of public works, and for the last four years as assistant/deputy county administrator. In the latter role, he was responsible for supervising several departments, including public utilities, public works, planning and zoning, building inspections, and environmental programs.
Besides also serving as interim director of several departments as vacancies occurred, Curry served multiple times as the interim emergency management coordinator. And he managed the capital implementation of a $16.2 million public safety/public service trunked radio communication project in Gloucester County.
Addressing the BOS after the announcement of his hiring, Curry acknowledged the turbulence the county has experienced in recent months.
But, he said, “I am looking forward to tackling the board’s expressed priorities.”
On a personal note, he told the BOS and others at the meeting that he has enjoyed Rappahannock County as an outdoor destination for many years. And now that he will be a member of the community he is looking forward to “seeing the more cultured side” of the county.
After BOS chair Roger Welch officially welcomed Curry, other members expressed their pleasure at having him on board.
Hampton supervisor John Lesinski praised Curry’s “passion and enthusiasm for his profession” and said he knew that Curry’s eyes “are wide open to the challenges facing the county.”
Parrish piped in, “Thank you for coming to help us all out.”
Garton, who has known Curry for years, said: “I am telling you without reservation that you won’t find someone with more integrity. Personally and professionally, I welcome Mr. Curry to the county.”
Garton said the BOS has not yet determined how Curry’s tenure will overlap with hers.
The BOS, in its evening public session last Monday, voted unanimously to table a proposed set of controversial zoning ordinance amendments rather than adopt them.
The members of the BOS had made its decision earlier in its afternoon session. Stonewall-Hawthorne district supervisor Chris Parrish told the meeting attendees, “We are planning to turn this back to the planning commission, but we advertised for a public hearing, so we wanted to hear from you.”
And hear from the public they did: Seven speakers expressed vehement opposition to the proposed amendments, as well as the process by which they are being considered.
The amendments, reflected in a marked-up copy of the 191-page county zoning ordinance, would drastically change the process for consideration and approval of applications for permits for such uses as tourist homes, B&Bs, family apartments, and event venues. They would also affect minimum lot sizes for tourist homes, boarding houses, and B&Bs; expand the authority of the BOS and zoning administrator; and limit the powers of the board of zoning appeals.
According to a resolution presented at the September 6 BOS meeting by Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff and then-zoning administrator Dave Dameron, the amendments would “eliminate the distinction between special permits and special exceptions in favor of a single process of applying for a special exception . . . ”
At the Nov. 6 evening BOS meeting, Piedmont district resident and former chair of the planning commission Tom Junk chastised county officials for not having updated the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance in many years.
“The whole zoning ordinance has to be gone through cover to cover,” he said. He characterized the proposed amendments as a “piecemeal approach.”
Alex Sharp, BZA chair, presented a letter from the BZA opposing the amendments.
He read, “Primarily we feel that such a significant change to the zoning ordinance terms should not be done without full consideration of the pros and cons of the current system and should be justified by much more than convenience of staff, streamlining of advertising and ‘that’s the way other localities do it.’”
Local attorney David Konick, also a BZA member, called attention to one amendment in particular that deletes a section of the ordinance titled Limits on Authority.
“Deleting this section would allow the board of supervisors to ignore or gut the ordinance,” he said.
He warned that if the power to review and grant special permits is taken away from the BZA and put in the hands of the BOS, “every application would be a big political football.”
Marlena Lee of Castleton presented to the supervisors a petition signed by 50 county residents opposed to doing away with minimum lot sizes for transient lodging.
“With these amendments,” said Lee, “you are creating holes in our ordinance. The board of supervisors’ duty is to protect the county.”
Jock Nash of the Hampton district said, “I’m concerned about giving the board of supervisors more authority.”
He also objected to what he perceives as county officials trying to speed up the approval process on the amendments. “There is nothing I can see that requires the bum’s rush,” he said.
At the end of the public comment session, Parrish thanked the speakers for their input.
In a surprising break with protocol surrounding closed meetings, Jackson supervisor Ron Frazier shared in a phone call Tuesday what had been discussed behind closed doors at the end of the Monday BOS meeting. The agenda described the closed session as: “Discussion, Consideration, and Interview of Candidates for County Administrator.”
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act allows officials to hold closed meetings to discuss sensitive topics, such as personnel matters or contract negotiations. However, the officials must certify to the public immediately after the closed session that they only discussed those exempt topics.
During the roll call certification at the evening BOS meeting, Frazier declined to certify, sending the rest of the board, Garton, and County Attorney Art Goff into a state of confusion.
In phone calls Tuesday, Parrish and Lesinski were asked why Frazier refused to certify. Both Parrish and Lesinski refused to discuss what had transpired in the closed session.
“We’re not supposed to talk about what happened in closed session,” said Parrish. “That’s the reason it’s closed.”
However, Frazier was only too happy to talk about what happened. He said that the actual proceedings of the meeting did not precisely follow the stated purpose, which was to consider candidates for the open county administrator position.
“The board had already made a [candidate] selection,” said Frazier. “We were working out the terms [of his contract]. The motion [to conduct the closed session] didn’t say anything about negotiating contracts.”
The BOS, he said, even called the candidate, who had been interviewed twice earlier, to discuss the contract.
“That was not in the motion for the closed meeting,” said Frazier.
An unedited video of the supervisors meeting on Monday, Nov. 6 can be found online at rappnews.com/video, or on the newspaper’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/RappNewsPlus. The meeting agenda and related documents are online at boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public.