Thumbs down for contractor’s permit on problematic Amissville property

A packed agenda of the Rappahannock County Planning Commission contained several touchstones for county residents, including ongoing cell tower debate in Woodville and Scrabble and more tourist home applications.

Topping the list for attendees at last Wednesday’s marathon meeting was how the planners would deal with two cell tower applications before the county. At the end of lengthy public comment and discussion, the planners voted 5-1 to forward a proposal for a 199-foot cell tower in Scrabble to the Board of Supervisors for its consideration.

The same panel later voted 5-1 to hold a public hearing at next month’s Planning Commission meeting on a modified application for a 139-foot cell tower — down from the original 199 feet — on Eldon Farms near Woodville.

Both applications are submitted by Arlington-based Community Wireless Structures, which erected the still-controversial Sperryville monopole earlier this year.

During the public comment period, 14 county residents weighed in on the cell tower applications, the majority of them in opposition. Among them were the owners of a historic 1740’s log home in Woodville, its property line only 500 feet from the proposed Eldon tower site.

Planning Commission Chairman Gary D. Light echoed other planners in saying that “it’s always tough decisions” that have to be made in finding a balance between a modern cell tower’s “visual impact” on scenic viewsheds and what is “clearly a public need” for cell coverage.

Meanwhile, Christine Smith, the BOS representative to the Planning Commission, made a point of telling CWS Vice President Hope McCreary that she is constantly hearing complaints from her constituents about the odd light blue color of the Sperryville cell tower, especially against the green backdrop of Shenandoah National Park.

Smith suggested that no new cell towers be approved in the county until the Sperryville monopole was repainted to better blend in with the natural surroundings. McCreary said the CWS would consider repainting the tower.

Earlier in the meeting, the Planning Commission voted 6-0 to deny a special exception that would have allowed a contractor’s yard on a 17-acre property in Amissville owned by Joseph Long and leased by John Cappiali. The latter wants to build a 14,400 square foot workshop on the property, which is zoned agricultural.

A dozen people showed up in support of the application, each wearing pro-Cappiali buttons, but Planner Al Henry led the chorus in saying such a large structure wasn’t compatible with Rappahannock’s “rural character.”

Outside the courthouse, Cappiali told the Rappahannock News that he was obviously “disappointed” by the vote.

“I followed the direction of the county administration, I did what they wanted,” he said. “There is a reference in there about a large building that is proposed. I don’t need the Planning Commission’s permission to build said building. I just need to spend $2,300 and pay the permit fee and I’m allowed to build up to a quarter-million-square feet without any Planning Commission review, any Board of Supervisors review...

“We are still going to build the building,” Cappiali insisted.

Carl and Donna Henrickson were back in front of the planners, this time for another preliminary review of their special exception permit application to turn their B&B (known as Harmony Manor to the neighbors) into a country inn to house a maximum of 16 guests. 

The commission reviewed the application at its October meeting and recommended tabling it until the Henricksons could supply additional information. At the November meeting, they again voted to table the application until more information could be supplied.

The Henricksons and their B&B have been the subjects of much controversy in the county for several years. At its August 2019 meeting the Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously to revoke the Henrickson’s 3-bedroom B&B permit because of repeated violations.

The Henricksons then petitioned the Rappahannock County Circuit Court to review the BZA action. Nothing has yet been decided. In the meantime, Harmony Manor neighbors along narrow Clark Lane reported a large event at the facility, seemingly in violation of the permit’s condition to hold no for-profit events.

The BZA then decided to hold another public hearing to determine whether there has been additional non-compliance with the terms or conditions of the special use permits; and whether to advance or amend the effective date (currently January 31, 2020) of the August 28, 2019 revocation. 

Comprehensive Plan update

Light asked Zoning Administrator Michelle Somers to work with the planners to schedule a work session to address the items of concern raised by the Berkley Group in its recent advisory report. Light directed Somers to prepare some draft language addressing the items that the planners could use as a starting point at the work session.. 

Tourist home applications

The planners voted unanimously to move a special use permit application forward to the BZA for further consideration. The application from Jeffrey Seese and Chester Gap Wines states that the applicant wishes to turn an existing 3-bedroom home into a tourist home on the winery property in Huntly.

The planners also voted unanimously to table another tourist home application. Neighborly Enterprises LLC applied for a special use permit for a 2-bedroom tourist home located at 414 Lake Drive in Amissville. The planners had concerns about any existing homeowner’s association covenants and the width of the property right of way.


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