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Lynn Brownley Questions And the Citizens Respond


Robert and Margaret Quinn
3629 Cople Highway
Montross, Virginia  22520
 
August 23, 2009
 
Mr. Lynn C. Brownley
District No. 3
15411 Kings Highway
Montross, Virginia  22520
 
Dear Mr. Brownley:
 
Thank you for your letter.  Improved communication is a goal of every citizen in this County.  We have tried to understand the reasoning behind the O’Gara relocation here but have been given no concrete answers to our questions.  Even the response you gave came with the caveat from Mr. Fisher that it was not the response of the Board.

Furthermore, unlike the Board of Supervisors, answering questions doesn’t take us six years.   
 
Why do references to the Ziegler memo (categorizing O’Gara activities as comprising a vocational or technical school) continuously suggest that his opinion was bias and not objective?

We are not suggesting that Ziegler’s opinion was bias and not objective, we are suggesting it is wrong.  The SIC government classification Ziegler references - 9711 (national security, military training schools) is not the SIC government classification of O’Gara - 8748 (business consulting), which negates the validity of the entire memo as it refers to O’Gara.  Although O’Gara is not specifically mentioned in the memo, the O’Gara people were already secretly meeting with government officials inWestmoreland County.  These officials chose to keep O’Gara’s presence a secret from the local citizens.  Ziegler’s memo could be nothing less than tainted since he was specifically tasked with creating an opinion that would justify a group like O’Gara locating in Westmoreland County.
 
After seven months of public comment and input since the initial contract between O’Gara and the Industrial Development Authority, why do some persons continue to advance the assertion that the public has been excluded?
 
Although two anti-O’Gara citizen presentations have been made along with many questions and comments to the Board of Supervisors, all have been disregarded. Questions that were posed to the Board in early May of this year remain unanswered by the Board or the County.  In fact, when Chairman Darryl Fisher was presented with almost 1,000 signatures against O’Gara, he said it could take “six years” for the Board to respond to the citizen’s questions. These questions are not difficult, especially if you believe O’Gara has the right to be here and will be beneficial to the county.  And, if the Board believes O’Gara will be so great for WestmorelandCounty, why hasn’t it even tried to convince the public of this?
One can assume that the Board’s lack of responsiveness is a result of its inability to justify O’Gara’s presence and its lack of due diligence prior to contract negotiations.  Giving people a forum for their perceived grievances is wonderful but what do you do then?  You ignore them.
 
In June I believe I was close to authoring a performance agreement (contractual limitations on O’Gara activities) that the company would accept.  I advised a number of citizens about this.  Why do you suppose that there was so little interest or support for this effort?
 
Three citizens met with you one evening in early June.  Although at that time our primary focus was keeping O’Gara out of Westmoreland County, we were supportive of placing limitations on O’Gara activities and a zoning change that would prevent any other business from calling itself a “school” and moving onto A-1 land without a public hearing.  You may believe you were “close to authoring a performance agreement” but you presented nothing to us at that meeting, we heard nothing from you after that and you did nothing even though we emphasized the need for urgency in both of these instances.  “Close” but no cigar, Mr. Brownley.  Furthermore, a promise was made by you to local residents before both the July and August meetings to put a resolution for a zoning change before the Board.  This promise remains unfulfilled and “pants on fire” seems to be the ongoing phrase to describe your activities (or lack thereof).

There was obviously significant public desire for Westmoreland County to “Just Say No” to O’Gara.  How would you suggest that the BOS could have effectuated that?
 
An environmental, financial and community impact study should have been commissioned on such a controversial and potentially dangerous facility.  
Before the contract was presented to the IDA, the BOS should have had a public hearing just as Essex, Louise and Shenandoah Counties did.  Furthermore, the
BOS should have recommended that the IDA look at the ramifications of this contract by performing their public responsibility to the citizens and investigating both the pros and cons of bringing O’Gara to this County before jumping into a contract.  Accepting O’Gara’s preliminary power point presentation as the gospel and signing a contract within minutes of viewing it is the height of incompetence and the BOS should have advised them against it.
 
The Board’s actions and activities with respect to the O’Gara proposal have been described as “deceptive” or the like.  What is meant by that description?  Could you offer a couple of examples?
 
“Deliberately misleading” is the charitable phrase that jumps to mind.
 
Examples, sure:
 
*     O’Gara was “in the neighborhood” at least since last summer yet
       county officials kept it a secret until January 2009.
*     There were no public hearings.
*    The IDA met behind closed doors (illegally?) and immediately
      signed a contract with O’Gara - no public comment was allowed.
        ·   The BOS repeatedly blames the IDA as if the BOS had nothing to
             do with this fiasco.
       ·     Promises to change the zoning laws to protect the county and its
             citizens were never fulfilled.
       ·     The BOS has refused to answer citizens’ questions.
       ·     County officials (including you) taking O’Gara’s “guided tour”
             never gave a formal report on their findings.
       ·     There are no controls in place to insure citizen safety on or near the
             O’Gara site.  If a golf driving range requires a public hearing,
             what about a live ammunition shooting range?
       ·     O’Gara is being allowed to proceed with activities that are
             expressly prohibited in the Westmoreland County Zoning Code,
     i.e. storage of explosives and flammables.
*   Please regarding the safety, health and well-being of the citizens fall
     on deaf ears.

You can also refer to answer #4 regarding what the responsible Boards of other Counties did when facing the same issue from the same group
 
What sort of information or “proof” would be required to validate the assertion that O’Gara’s relocating, building and, operating here is a long term beneficial form of economic activity and commerce?
 
This is a question that has been posed to the Board of Supervisors numerous times.  It was up to you as our elected representatives to convince us of O’Gara’s worth.  You failed in that responsibility.  The only response the Board has ever given to anyone is that O’Gara would bring economic growth.  But you presented no supporting evidence.  Now, let’s look at the facts.  So far, the site plans, the land disturbance and the buildings being placed on the O’Gara property are ALL from outside sources.  Surveyors, excavators and builders are available in Westmoreland County.  Yet none of them were hired by O’Gara.  Many of these local businesses have been forced to lay off workers.  They are angry and disappointed that they were not considered for the O’Gara project despite the promises of economic growth by both county officials and O’Gara.  These local businesses could have been doing the work O’Gara is now outsourcing to other counties.  The housing of the O’Gara trainees will also not be done in Westmoreland County except a few at a tax-exempt facility.  This outsourced work represents hundreds of thousands of dollars (possibly millions) in lost revenue to the people of this County.  What happened to the economic growth you’ve been touting?  To date, that’s our “proof.”  What “proof” do you have?
 
Why do some citizens continue to opine that the company’s presence here will significantly reduce values of the surrounding real estate parcels?  Can anyone point to a comparable scenario where such actually occurred?
 
You are in receipt of a copy of a letter from a nearby landowner on Nomini Creek, who had architectural plans drawn for an $800,000 home to be built by a local builder on the Nomini.  He stopped short of signing the contract (which, by the way, would have employed builders, roofers, electricians, plumbers, etc. for the next year) because of the proximity of O’Gara and the behavior of this county’s officials in this transaction.  Across the Creek, two individuals have abandoned plans to put additions on their homes because of O’Gara.  Another two families planning on moving to Westmoreland County have already relocated to other counties because of O’Gara.  How many retirees and families desire to spend their leisure time listening to and living within proximity of a mercenary training facility?  I haven’t met any, have you?  Do you think this will increase property values?  Think again!

Is the Board’s practice of recessing regular meetings (continuing the balance of same to another time and place) truly viewed by many citizens as dysfunctional or indicative of “something gone awry?”  Assuming that there exists a need for additional gatherings of the Board periodically, then how would you suggest that such be provided for?
 
If the intent is to promote secrecy and avoid citizen input, then clearly “something has gone awry.”  If it is for practical purposes such as meeting with the School Board (as happened last week) then we see no objection.  Any “additional gatherings” of the Board should be handled with appropriate notice to the public just as the law provides.
 
 
Again, thank you for your letter.  Hopefully the above narrative answers your questions and explains some of the frustration and anger being expressed by local citizens.  We hope to hear from you with some concrete suggestions on zoning changes as well as restrictions on O’Gara’s use of agricultural land.  We would be happy to meet with you to discuss those issues.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
 
Margaret Quinn                                                            Robert Quinn

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