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W’md BZA asked to rule on O’Gara facility’s designation as a school

   April 27 is the Westmoreland County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing date given to property owner Joseph W. Thompson, whose February 11 application questions county government’s ability to classify the security training facility O’Gara Group expects to develop in Westmoreland County as a school.
   On January 12 the county government agreed to sell its unoccupied industrial shell building and the 25 surrounding acres to O’Gara if the buyer additionally purchases Bryan Chandler’s 325-acre tract.
   The property developed as an industrial park by the county government is an upper remnant of the larger Chandler tract. The agriculturally zoned is largely wooded and is situated between the industrial park and the upper reaches of a Nomini tributary.
   Joe Thompson’s land is on the creek and he was one of many unhappy residents who spoke against creation of the O’Gara Group’s training facility when the Westmoreland Supervisors met last Monday night.
   Thompson is a natural resources consultant and land management specialist. He is a state certified nutrient management planner and the name of the business he operates is Smart Creek Enterprises, LLC.
   Services offered by Smart Creek Enterprises include land use analysis, farm planning, wildlife habitat management, soil evaluation, erosion and sediment control and pasture and grassland management.
   On February 9 Joe Thompson told the Westmoreland Supervisors that he shares the concerns of all the Westmoreland residents who preceded him to the podium in order to express displeasure with the local government’s intentions to accommodate the wishes of the O’Gara Group.
   Thompson warned the Supervisors that the O’Gara’s plans call for development of as much as one-third of the approximately 350-acre tract.
   “A land disturbance footprint of over 100 acres doesn’t equate with [the footprint of] a typical school,” said Thompson.
   Thompson additionally noted the history of a similar training facility’s effort to establish a location in Stafford County. The courts, he noted, have been asked to deliver a ruling on the proposed establishment’s conformity to that jurisdiction’s adopted definition of a school.
   Thompson urged the Westmoreland Supervisors to delay closing the local government’s deal with the O’Gara Group. The judicial ruling on the Stafford County question would have clear relevance.
   Thompson told the Supervisors that he lives downstream of the property where O’Gara expects to locate.
   “My wife’s family has been here for over a century,” he explained. “I am here because I love the rural lifestyle.”
   Thompson said he had no clear information about the composition of the prospective O’Gara trainees other than the certainty that those individuals would be transient, with no vested interest in preservation of the immediate area’s quality of life.
“I know these are dire economic times and I can well understand that having someone walk up with cash in hand would be enough to turn anybody’s head,” Thompson told the Supervisors.
“I also believe that if this county can continue to maintain its quality of life, more appropriate industries

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