Sat12272014

Last updateWed, 27 Dec 2017 12am

   201412metrocast

Montross making strides in effort to revitalize itself

The Town of Montross’ revitalization efforts have exceeded expectations so far.

County mulls in-lieu money for wetlands

The Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 8 on a proposal...

County board tables Beach road proposal

The Westmoreland Board of Supervisors, representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportatio...

Montross using state grant to spruce up town

Linda Farneth

Revitalization took center stage at the Oct. 28 Montross Town Council meeting.
The To...

Supervisors cite proximity to nearby home as reason

Supervisors cite proximity to nearby home as reason

The Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors has voted to deny permission for  giant farming op...

Oldhams man gets 20 years for shooting

A Westmoreland County man entered a plea of no contest Oct. 17 to seven felony counts in Westmorelan...

 

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Appeal filed with Board of Zoning Appeals in O'Gara application

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.

Read more: Appeal filed with Board of Zoning Appeals in O'Gara application

Citizens thank supervisors for meeting room with sunshine

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.

Read more: Citizens thank supervisors for meeting room with sunshine

Montross Fall Festival - Kids Zone made bigger, better

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.

Read more: Montross Fall Festival - Kids Zone made bigger, better

Brownley addresses WCCA response

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.

Read more: Brownley addresses WCCA response

Action on mud bog question deferred

The Westmoreland County Board of Zoning Appeals met on Aug. 24 to hear Frank Iannarelli’s appeal of a County Zoning Administration finding that mud bog activities on a property zoned as Business General near Leedstown needs special exception approval to continue.
Action was deferred until the Board of Zoning Appeals convenes its next meeting on Sept. 28, but evidence was entertained to support positions on both sides of the question.
The mud bog property was zoned A-1, Agricultural when Iannarelli first sought local government’s approval to hold three all-terrain vehicle mud bog events in April and May 2007.
The late Zoning Administrator Gary Ziegler at that time characterized the three special events as “a temporary land use issue” that could be accommodated by a special use permit. Ziegler reasoned that no special exception approval was needed because the three mud bog events were not proposed as a permanent or ongoing land use activity.

Read more: Action on mud bog question deferred

O’Gara has expansion plans in its sights

O’Gara Training and Services, LLC bought the first 330.0-acre block of land from Bryan Chandler on July 28 and recorded the deed associated with its $2.5 million real estate transaction two days later in Westmoreland Circuit Court.
By the morning of July 31a Williamsburg contractor’s land disturbing equipment had arrived on the former Chandler land and crews were busy moving land where access roads would be installed. A county government land disturbance permit was issued and posted on site before the county government concluded its business that Friday afternoon.

Read more: O’Gara has expansion plans in its sights

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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