Sperryville event site, Crest Hill training center applications again rejected by planners

The Rappahannock County Planning Commission has voted on two special exception applications that have drawn significant and impassioned outcry from county residents. In both cases, the planners voted — in split decisions — to deny recommending the applications for approval by the Board of Supervisors when it meets on May 7.

Both applications had previously come before the Planning Commission and the public.

Bill Fletcher’s application for a blanket permit to hold up to 31 events a year on his Thornton Hill Farm property south of Sperryville was heard several times last year by both the planning commission and the BOS. The application was opposed by numerous neighbors and others.

At its July 19, 2017, meeting the planners tabled the application, after asking Fletcher to scale back the number of events and present specific event plans. The county’s code restricts certain events to one every three years and requires a separate permit request for each event.

Planning Commission chair Gary Light placed the application on last week’s agenda because, he said, “The status of this with respect to the timing is somewhat vague. The reason it’s on the agenda tonight is I thought it was in our interest and in the county’s interest to make an affirmative disposition of this application so that its condition was much clearer than it was . . . before.”

In a blustery 10-minute speech to the planners, Fletcher warned of the consequences of not supporting the county’s farmers. Earlier he had presented a half-page of amendments that had not been made public.

A motion to recommend that the BOS deny the application was upheld by four planners. Three voted against the motion.

The second special exception permit application was presented by Mike Blyth of Risk Security Management of Manassas. Blyth sought permission to use the 39-acre property on Old Kennels Lane at Crest Hill and North Poes Roads as a “training center . . . to teach 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.

Blyth first presented his proposal at the planners’ March meeting. At that time, the application was presented — erroneously, as Blyth tried to explain — as “active shooter” training. In the face of neighbor opposition, the planners rejected the application, but suggested that Blyth resubmit his proposal with more details.

Blyth brought to the April meeting multiple copies of a 50-page document, explaining what his company does and its plans for the training center. Despite the new information, neighbors still objected. The planners voted on the motion to recommend to the BOS that it deny the application. Four planners supported the motion, one voted against, and two abstained.

The evening’s agenda included other matters:

  • The planners voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Zoning Appeals Susan Belle’s special use permit application for a tourist home on her 50-acre Flint Hill property. But they placed restrictions on the application regarding the number of guests and requiring safety equipment and local emergency contact information.
  • The Comprehensive Plan update and proposed zoning amendments will be discussed at the Planning Commission’s May 16 meeting.
  • Also at the May meeting, the planners will hold a public hearing on the sign ordinance amendment request submitted by the Amissville VFD and Rescue. The ordinance currently prohibits electronic signs that can be programmed by computer. The proposed amendment exempts any fire department from any sign ordinance.
  • Cliff Miller IV requested an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to allow a golf driving range to be added to the same use category as a golf course. The Planning Commission needs to review and decide if they will hold a public hearing.
  • County Administrator Garrey Curry asked the planners to review section 170-55E of the zoning ordinance, concerning the timing and process of considering special use and special exception permit applications.
  • Light suggested the planners take up the topic of utility scale solar farms, large tracts of land leased out to solar companies who erect acres of solar panels to generate electricity. “My purpose [in bringing this up],” Light said, “was to try to get ahead of this issue.” He mentioned processes used by Fauquier and Culpeper counties around this issue.

An unedited video of the Planning Commission 7 p.m. session on Wednesday, April 18 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.

About Patty Hardee 242 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.