BOS reappoints Gary Light to Planning Commission

Criticism of leadership led to split vote

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In a three-to-two vote Monday afternoon, the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors narrowly reappointed Stonewall-Hawthorne resident Gary Light to the county’s Planning Commission, where he has served as chair.

The close vote was marked by criticism of Light’s lack of leadership in bringing the current review and revision of the county’s Comprehensive Plan to a close. State law requires counties to review their plan every five years. Rappahannock’s plan has not been reviewed and updated in many years, although the Planning Commission has been working toward completion in recent months..

Hampton supervisor John Lesinski pressed the board to continue with Light.

“I have heard a lot of comments about leadership concerns about Mr. Light,” Lesinski said. “There are ways to address that.  . . . But to lose his institutional knowledge would be detrimental.”

Ron Frazier, Jackson supervisor, said he too had heard complaints from his constituents. And Piedmont Supervisor Christine Smith expressed frustration at the Planning Commission’s seeming disinterest in accepting suggestions of help from the BOS.

“[I understand that] redoing the comp plan is a heavy lift,” Smith said, “but there is lots of help that can be had — we can even appoint additional [planners] — but all opportunities for assistance have been declined.”

Smith and Frazier both voted against Light’s reappointment.

All the supervisors thanked Piedmont resident Melanie Kopjanski for applying for the Planning Commission position. Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor Chris Parrish even expressed hope that she would consider running for supervisor when his term ends in two-and-a-half years.

In speaking to the board before the vote, Kopjanski told of her family’s 212-year history of farming in the county. Calling herself “the voice of continuity,” if appointed to the Planning Commission she vowed to represent the agriculture perspective on the commission.

Meanwhile, it was announced at the meeting that Sheri Cillo has resigned from the Planning Commission. The county will advertise for a replacement from the Piedmont district.

The comp plan was a topic of discussion in other parts of the meeting as well. In her capacity as the BOS rep to the Planning Commission, Smith reported that she had attended a commission working session on the comp plan where Todd Gordon from the Virginia-based consulting firm The Berkley Group presented a list of 23 required elements. Of those, she said, the commission has only completed about half.

“But,” Smith said, “the consultant gave us a framework to move forward” on the plan.

The Berkeley Group specializes in evaluating and operating government service delivery processes for state counties during a time when, according to its website, “local government’s resources are shrinking while expectations for delivering real-world results are greater than ever before.”

In the evening portion of the BOS meeting, Smith asked to continue the discussion of the commission’s work.

“When I feel the Planning Commission needs help to complete the Comprehensive Plan,” Smith said, “it’s not because they aren’t doing their job or because there’s a problem, but because [the review] has gone undone for so long and it’s a big job. It’s reasonable to expect they may need assistance.”

She said that the planners appreciated the consultant’s input and eagerly await the Berkley Group’s recommendations, which are expected in 45 days.

Other matters

In a moving ceremony, Lesinski and chair Roger Welch of Wakefield District presented a State Senate Joint Resolution honoring the late Frank Huff for his many years of service to the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire Department and the Rappahannock County Fire and Rescue Association. After seeing the outpouring of community support for Huff after his death, Lesinski said he asked state Senator Mark Obenshain to sponsor the resolution. The bound resolution was presented to Huff’s wife, Sherrie and son, Robert.

Four members of the board voted to approve Glen Gordon Manor’s application to amend its Special Use Permit to expand the number of lodging rooms from nine to 14. Frazier abstained.

The BOS voted three-to-two to extend the contract of Deputy County Attorney Peter Luke through next February, after the trial of Marian Bragg (I) v the Board of Supervisors. Smith and Frazier cast the no votes.

Hampton district resident (and supervisor candidate) Keir Whitson, speaking during the public comment session, suggested that the board give some attention to the county’s wastewater systems, especially the one in Sperryville which is over 30 years old. He also suggested that a BOS member be appointed to sit on the Rappahannock County Water and Sewer Authority.

Deak Deakins of the Hampton district spoke against two proposed cell towers near Woodville, calling their lattice design “hideous.” In the evening session, Forest Marquisee of Piedmont district also objected to any such cell towers, calling their transmissions harmful to animals and humans.

Deakins also urged the BOS to enforce the county’s ordinance on “ridgetop development.” The code calls for no building on slopes greater than 14 percent.

In the Treasurer’s Report, Curry said that county revenue continues to be strong. He cited the collection efforts of County Treasurer Debbie Knick for the inflow of revenue. He also reported that the county would be getting a refund from the regional jail of about $22,000.

The board also voted five-to-zero to authorize a work order for consulting firm Wiley|Wilson to conduct a space planning and facility conditions study of the county buildings.

An unedited video of the supervisors meeting on Monday, June 3 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 284 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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