Personal security training center proposal amended for Flint Hill property
Two controversial special exception permit applications that had been previously considered by the Rappahannock County Planning Commission were set to be taken up again at last night’s (Wednesday) meeting.
Even before the meeting convened, the reappearance of Bill Fletcher’s previously tabled special exception application to hold events at his Thornton Hill property near Sperryville was met with strong opposition.
Fairfax attorney Gifford Hampshire, representing almost a dozen county residents and neighbors of Fletcher’s property, sent a letter to county officials on April 17 stating several reasons for the application to be denied, not the least being the proposal’s expiration deadline had been reached.
Fletcher’s application asks for blanket permission to hold up to 31 events per year at the 158-acre property bordering U.S. 522. The largest event was estimated to attract up to 8,000 attendees.
By contrast, the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Department holds its annual Fourth of July celebration on the same Thornton Hill tract. In past years, the celebration has attracted more than 2,500 people who picnic and watch the fireworks.
The planning commission took up the application at its May and June meetings last year 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 tabled it at its July 19 meeting.
Fletcher’s resubmitted application appears to be unchanged from the original.
Surrounding the Flint Hill matter, in February, Mike Blyth, co-owner of Manassas-based Risk and Strategic Management Corp. (RSM), appeared before the planners to present his application for a training center on property located at 10 Old Kennels Lane. The agenda posted on the county’s website before the meeting described the facility as an “Active Shooter and Training Center,” which has alarmed county residents.
Blyth earlier attempted to explain that the description was incorrect, to no avail. RSM, he told a nearly packed courtroom, “teaches charities, philanthropic groups and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] on how to conduct their missions in a safe and productive manner” when operating in war zones or other hostile environments.
He said he had hoped to use the 39-acre property off Crest Hill and North Poes Roads as a “training center.”
After hearing from over a dozen county residents mostly opposed to the application, the Planning Commission voted not to recommend the application to the Board of Supervisors for consideration. However, the planners also suggested that Blyth re-submit an amended application clarifying his intent and answering residents’ objections.
Now, in his rewritten application, Blyth acknowledged that in the previous meeting “a number of legitimate concerns” were raised by the Flint Hill community.
In a phone call Tuesday, Blyth expressed his desire to work with the community.
“I’m hoping that this time around we have provided the level of information needed for the community to fully understand what our intentions are,” he said.
An unedited video of the meeting will be posted as quickly as possible at rappnews.com, where other public meeting video archives can be found. In addition documents pertaining to these applications can be found on the county website Boarddocs at boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public.