BZA narrowly approves retroactive permit for farm building made residence “To turn a blind eye… encourages more of the same”

The issue of what constitutes a family apartment on the same property as a primary residence is a thorny topic that the county’s boards frequently wrestle with. At its April 24 meeting, the Board of Zoning Appeals heard from an applicant that not only wanted to convert her current residence into a family apartment, but also wanted a retroactive permit change on another structure on her property.

In 1998 Annie Cato and her husband, a licensed contractor, applied for a permit to build a structure for agricultural use on their Castleton property. At the time of the application, a farm building was defined in the zoning ordinance as a “structure located on a farm utilized for the storage, handling or production of agricultural, horticultural and floricultural products normally intended for sale to domestic and foreign markets and buildings used for maintenance, storage and use of animals or equipment related thereto.”

Photos taken by the county in 2004 show that the farm building appears to be an unfinished residence.

In a letter accompanying her application in February of this year, Cato states that when her husband died in September 2017, she was unaware that the proper permits had not been issued for the structure.

“My deceased husband, Bill Cato… worked with [then county building official] Mr. Richie Burke on this project and apparently, the two men had a “verbal” agreement on the process and approvals,” she wrote in her letter. “I was ignorant of the fact that there were no building permits pulled for the structure.”

At the meeting she told the BZA members that she wanted to make things right with the county, get the required permits to complete the unfinished structure as a primary residence, and convert her current residence as a family apartment for her step-daughter.

BZA members Ron Makela and David Konick expressed serious concerns about the Catos seeming to “fly under the radar” of the county’s taxation and zoning rules, as Makela put it.

“For the board to overlook what happened is a mistake,” Konick said. “To turn a blind eye is a mistake because it encourages more of the same” behavior by other applicants who might want to skirt the regulations.

The other three BZA members sympathized with Cato and voted to approve her application. Both Konick and Makela voted no.

An unedited video of the BZA’s 7 p.m. session on April 24 can be found online at, or on the newspaper’s YouTube channel at The meeting agenda and related documents are online at

About Patty Hardee 277 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.

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