- Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 18:30
- Published on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 18:30
- Hits: 385
Assistant County Administrator Karen Lewis had no answers last Friday, but the Oct. 14 evening meeting of Westmoreland County’s Board of Supervisors will begin several hours earlier than the evening session’s customary starting time.
The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. in order to allocate a 60-minute interval to a closed-door discussion of reports or plans related to the security of any governmental facility.
According to the agenda released on Oct. 9, at 5 p.m. the supervisors will go into “Closed Session with Sheriff C. O. Balderson, et als (by invitation) Pursuant to Virginia Code Section 2.2-3711.A19 RE: Discussion of reports or plans related to the security of any governmental facility.”
A search of Virginia code lends additional insight, but raises multiple questions left open by the agenda item’s language. The referenced Paragraph 19 reads as follows:
“Discussion of plans to protect public safety as it relates to terrorist activity and briefings by staff members, legal counsel, or law-enforcement or emergency service officials concerning actions taken to respond to such activity or a related threat to public safety;
“Or discussion of reports or plans related to the security of any governmental facility, building or structure, or the safety of persons using such facility, building or structure.”
The closed door-discussion comes one month after county government moved its designated meeting place from the G. D. English Building courtrooms to A. T. Johnson auditorium.
The change in location was adopt ed by the Westmoreland supervisors in order to bring the local government into compliance with Virginia Freedom of Information Act requirements.
Residents had been denied video camera access to local government meeting proceedings that were held in facilities it traditionally shared with the Westmoreland courts. The sheriff’s office had determined that the presence of cameras during local government meetings compromised the courts’ security.
When the Supervisors met in the A. T. Johnson auditorium on Sept. 14, Board Chairman Darryl Fisher advised the public that the move would likely hasten Westmoreland’s plans to construct or locate a new building for the local government.
The English Building’s courtrooms had been the supervisors’ preferred local government meeting places due to the convenience provided by their immediate proximity to the local government offices.
As long ago as October 2005, the Westmoreland Supervisors publicly acknowledged local government’s need for additional office space. Construction of either a new county government office complex or a new judicial center already had been listed as a priority in the adopted Capital Improvements Program.
During the same public discussion, officials acknowledged plans to build a new high school. The supervisors reasoned that the existing high school could then be adapted to house county government offices.
In October 2006, the Westmoreland County School Board adopted a resolution stating its intentions to move forward with plans to construct the new high school. The resolution advised that continued maintenance of the old Washington and Lee High School facilities “may be an unwise investment,” that the high school is landlocked and cannot grow and that “plans shall commence” to provide for future needs.
The Public-Private Education Act was cited as the “means to create plans” and get proposals.
After the supervisors’ October 2005 discussion, the board commissioned a space needs assessment whose focus was the judicial center and the county government and local emergency and law enforcement offices.
Wednesday’s 5 p.m. closed session might revisit the space needs assessment, or it might address a new directive from the United States Department of Homeland Security.
Such a directive would result from threats of terrorist attacks.
Another possible consideration would be the supervisors’ security inside the recently designated A. T. Johnson meeting place.
A sheriff’s deputy attended the supervisors’ Sept. 14 meeting, but no metal detectors had been installed on those premises. The supervisors began subjecting their public to metal detectors following the June 29 meeting of the Industrial Development Authority, when residents reportedly became disorderly after raising questions that the authority was unwilling or unable to address.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 October 2009 18:38
- Published on Wednesday, 07 October 2009 18:38
- Hits: 491
A complaint and motion filed on Sept. 29 in Westmoreland Circuit Court are the most recent in a series of efforts by plaintiffs George and Susan Ripol, Harry and Bonnie Boyden and Mary Porter Hall to compel Westmoreland County’s public officials to follow what they believe is the letter of the law in matters pertaining to establishment of O’Gara Group’s for-profit tactical training base on land it bought from county resident Bryan Chandler.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:23
- Published on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:23
- Hits: 502
The Westmoreland Supervisors have voted to join their neighbors from Richmond, Northumberland and Lancaster counties in the formation of a Northern Neck Broadband Authority intended to hasten creation of a fiber-optic grid capable of making high-speed Internet services available throughout Virginia’s Northern Neck.
The action follows multiple years of effort from the region’s Economic Development Partnership. Needs assessments were previously conducted and the newly created authority is poised to receive as much as $17 million in federal stimulus funding to support the ambitious project.
Northern Neck Planning District Director Jerry Davis has met with every member jurisdiction’s Board of Supervisors in recent weeks to secure the action needed to proceed.
- Last Updated on Monday, 21 September 2009 14:27
- Published on Monday, 21 September 2009 14:27
- Hits: 755
On Friday, September 18, a formal zoning appeal was filed with the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), which contests the right of The O'Gara Group to build their school on the A1 land that they purchased, and also on the IDA shell building property. The filing of this appeal forces construction to stop until the BZA resolves the issue.
BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS
Owner/Applicants seeking review of Zoning Administrator decision:
1 George J. Ripol and Susan Hoge Ripol 3103 Cople Highway Montross, Virginia 22520 804-493-0895
2 Mary Porter Hall 14201 Kings Highway Montross, Virginia 22520 804-493-9394
3 Harry and Bonnie Boyden
P.O. Box 234 Bel Alton, Maryland 20611 301-934-9422
BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS
1. Memorandum, Gary Ziegler to Board of Supervisors, September 17, 2008, subject "County Shell Building" and "Tax Map #35-106," with attachments.
2. Recorded Plat, SDZ easement on O'Gara site, recorded July 30, 2009.
3. Proposed O'Gara Gun range Evaluation and Recommendations, William Thornton, Ph.D., P.E., August 10, 2009.
4. Letter, Robert Fink, ZA to Peter Henderson, Site Plan Approval for Phase A-l, Training Facility and Academy, The O'Gara Group, Tax Map ID #35-106, dated August 24, 2009.
5. Letter, Robert Fink, ZA, to Carline Peters, Esq., Re: August 31 letter requesting zoning interpretation regarding the O'Gara Training Facility and Academy, Tax Map ID #35106, dated September 8, 2009.
6. Aerial Photo (Google) showing site and surrounding landowner parcels, April 2006.
7. Real Estate Purchase Contract between the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Authority and The O'Gara Group, Inc., dated January 12, 2009.
8. Real Estate Purchase Contract between Westmoreland County Industrial Development Authority and the O'Gara Group, Inc., undated but believed to have been executed on June 22, 2009.
9. Letter, David Bailey, Environmental Law Group, PLLC, to Robert Fink, ZA, Request for Contract Compliance Opinion, June 9, 2009.
10. Training Facility and Academy Phase 1A Site Plan, Bury+Partners, Inc., dated July 7, 2009, 10 sheets, incorporated by reference due to size of documents.
11. Training Facility and Academy Phase IB Site Plan, Bury+Partners, Inc., dated June 29, 2009, 13 sheets, incorporated by reference due to size of documents.
12. Letter, Robert Fink to Peter Henderson, O'Gara, site plan review for Phase IB, dated September 14, 2009.
13. Website company identification, The O'Gara Group.
NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE APPEAL
This appeal, brought on behalf of two adjacent property owners and one owning property in the same district, Exhibit 6, seeks review by the Westmoreland Board of Zoning Appeals ("BZA") on several grounds regarding the Westmoreland County Zoning Administrators' approval of a site plan submitted by The O'Gara Group, and the Zoning Administrator's reliance on a zoning compliance opinion written in September 2008 as the basis for his determination of compliance with Westmoreland County Land Use Ordinances. Jurisdiction for this appeal is found in Va. Code § 15.2-2311 and the Westmoreland County Land Use Ordinance, wherein any "person aggrieved" may appeal to the BZA "any" decision of the zoning administrator regarding zoning decisions, requirements or compliance thereof. The appeal forms and fee have been enclosed.
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 21:53
- Published on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 21:53
- Hits: 509
The Westmoreland Supervisors met this Monday in the old A.T. Johnson auditorium with a video camcorder recording their deliberations and sunlight pouring through the room’s large windows.
On Aug. 26 county government published an announcement that it would move all of its public meetings to the A.T. Johnson Museum auditorium. Not stated in the notice was local government’s previous refusal to allow its public meetings to be videoed, photographed or recorded in the G.D. English Building meeting rooms it shares with the Westmoreland County courts.
This week’s meeting began with Board of Supervisors Chairman Darryl Fisher’s highly detailed explanation of his decision to reinstitute his practice of delivering a prayer prior to the conduct of the Board’s official business.
Describing himself as a Baptist pastor, Fisher pushed the envelope of what the constitution can allow.
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 21:41
- Published on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 21:41
- Hits: 544
As plans for the Montross Fall Festival progress, we are pleased to announce that Sunbelt Realty has again agreed to sponsor Kids Zone. The idea of Kids Zone is to give children 12 years old and under their own reason to attend the festival. Last year was the first for this new attraction, and despite some growing pains, it was clearly a success. This year should be a much greater success.
Kids Zone will have a number of features which should occupy the younger set for a considerable time — parents or guardians must accompany, but they shouldn’t find it to difficult. Some of the features include:
Northern Neck Electric Coop will have an animated safety display along with a bucket truck and equipment to demonstrate how repairs are made. Last year’s display was a big hit; this year should be better.
The Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department will be there with uniformed officers and fully equipped police cars complete with lights and sirens. We have been assured that kids can sit in the driver’s seat (and maybe operate the lights), but no driving.
The Virginia State Police will also have vehicles, uniformed officers and a K-9 officer who will provide demonstrations of his dog’s training and capabilities. Sorry, no petting, but this should be really interesting.
- Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 September 2009 23:52
- Published on Tuesday, 08 September 2009 23:52
- Hits: 383
Several Westmoreland Citizens Association (WCCA) officers received a letter in last week’s mail from District 3 Supervisor Lynn Brownley that appeared to reflect the Supervisor’s reaction to an Aug. 26 Journal report detailing a portion of the Aug. 24 WCCA meeting.
On Aug. 18, Brownley had mailed a set of eight O’Gara-related questions to some of the WCCA officers and also to some private citizens who were not at that time members of the WCCA, but who were known to oppose the local government’s recruitment of O’Gara’s corporate soldier training establishment to Westmoreland County.
Bob and Margaret Quinn had already received and responded to Brownley’s set of O’Gara related questions when WCCA President Kennon Morris read the set of questions to the association’s membership.
The Quinns were guests at the association’s Aug. 24 meeting, and as Morris read a question, Bob Quinn followed with a reading of the answer that couple had previously prepared. Many of the Quinns’ responses were interrupted by the WCCA membership’s applause.
A WCCA member delivered a motion from the floor to inform Supervisor Brownley that the Quinns’ responses to the set of O’Gara questions reflect the sentiments of the association’s membership. The motion passed with a unanimous vote.
Before Morris was able to respond in writing to the District 2 Supervisor, Brownley’s Aug. 28 letter was in the mail. Association officer Bette Williams provided The Journal with a copy of the correspondence Brownley addressed to WCCA President Kennon Morris, but mailed to her Montross post office address.