Letters to the editor reflect the opinion of the writer(s), not the Rapp News. Comment below or by writing a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am the cranky neighbor who complained that Ms. Charlotte Wagner was carrying out dog training activities without a Special Use permit on land zoned Agriculture. Notwithstanding the opinions of the Zoning Administrator, the County Administrator, and the County Attorney that she needed a Special Use Permit, the BZA has ruled that she did not…need one, that is.
Surprisingly, I feel somewhat okay with the outcome of the BZA meeting that ruled in her favor.
Why, you ask? Well, it’s because the BZA determined that there are two places already doing the same thing in the county without permits (they must not have cranky neighbors, as one BZA member put it) and that set a “precedent.” So, Ms. Wagner doesn’t need a permit either. Unanimous decision. Case closed.
That sounds reasonable and fair. Three wrongs make a right, right?! It sounded great to all Ms. Wagner’s supporters in the courtroom. I guess it sounds okay to me, too.
Here’s why. Now I know that I can do anything I want with MY land in Rappahannock County provided I can find someone else in the county already doing the same thing without a permit. And so can everybody, right?!
And, in case you wonder whether I might be treated differently, it was clearly stated by the BZA chair that the BZA can’t arbitrarily apply the law. So, I feel completely confident that I will be treated the exact same way by the BZA should the Zoning Administrator send me a Notice of Violation.
As a matter of fact, I doubt the Zoning Administrator will ever bother sending a Notice of Violation again. Not worth the effort!
By the way, it’s not worth the effort to be a cranky neighbor either. Even though the enforcement of our zoning ordinance is “complaint based” meaning that if no one complains, nothing is done to enforce it, nobody actually likes a complainer. There is nothing left for me to do but to congratulate Ms. Wagner on her outstanding success. She can do her thing anywhere in the county. The BZA meanwhile has handed Rappahannock County zoning a major defeat.
Of course, the county has the right to appeal the BZA’s decision to the Circuit Court, but my guess is that there is zero appetite in the County Administrator’s office or the County Attorney’s office for doing this. In fact, few people in the county seem to care about what is being done on the corner of Route 211 and Old Hollow Road.
Whether the county cares about the “precedent” just set by the BZA is another matter.
That remains to be seen.
Postscript: After writing this letter I contacted the zoning administrator and learned that there have been four special use permits issued for kennels between 1991 and 2012. (Dog training is included in the definition of kennel as defined in the zoning ordinance.)
So four property owners were required to get permits. Two never got permits for some reason.
Did the BZA know this when they made their decision?
If not, why didn’t they? It’s in the county records. All I had to do was ask.
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