Virginia state liquor monopoly to continue

Richmond, VA – On Jan. 30, the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services killed legislation introduced by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) to privatize Virginia’s ABC Store operations. Although SB 1542 will not be considered further this year, Sen. Obenshain says he will continue to work towards the goal of divesting these operations.

“Although we have considered many vitally important bills this session, few pieces of legislation struck a chord with voters as much as this one did,” said Sen. Obenshain. “The voters do not understand why the state needs to be in the retail business, and frankly, neither do I.”

Virginia’s ABC Stores are a relic of an earlier era, a holdover from the early days after Prohibition when many, including oil baron John D. Rockefeller, were concerned that the private sale of alcohol would corrupt the moral character of the citizenry and lead to moral decay.

Seventy-five years after the repeal of Prohibition, nothing has changed in Virginia – even though thirty-two states allow the private sale of distilled spirits. In fact, these “private sale” states actually experience slightly lower levels of underage drinking, driving under the influence, and alcoholism.

Sen. Obenshain’s bill would have created “package store licenses,” which would authorize the retail sale of alcohol beverages, to be auctioned off one at a time, with no less than one license in every city and county, but not more than one per 10,000 residents, adjusted every five years. The auction price would form the basis for that licensee’s annual fees, adjusted for inflation, and the state would continue to tax the sale of spirits. No licensee could locate within a one mile radius of an existing license holder, making the first license issued in any locality the most valuable.

“Handled correctly, privatizing the ABC Stores will save money and increase consumer choice,” said Obenshain, noting that privatization tends to offer consumers such benefits as greater convenience, better hours, wider selections, lower prices, and the innovation inherent in competition-driven systems.

Although the bill did not pass this year, Sen. Obenshain intends to work with interested parties to revise and reintroduce the legislation next year. Support for the measure transcends the usual political divides: “Everywhere I go, people ask me about this bill,” said Obenshain. “Democrats and Republicans, young and old, they all want the government out of the business of selling alcohol.”

A Facebook group Sen. Obenshain created for supporters of privatization efforts currently boasts over four hundred members, and in a recent survey available on http://www.markobenshain.com and mailed to thousands of voters across the district, seventy percent of respondents favored privatization, with nearly 85% supportive if they were assured that the Commonwealth could reap a considerable profit by the conversion. The numbers ran still higher if voters were assured that the Commonwealth could impose restrictions on the location and advertising of distilled spirit retailers. “The people of the twenty-sixth district understand what some in Richmond just don’t get,” commented Obenshain. “They aren’t ready to give up on this bill, and neither am I.”

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page.

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Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 4:01 am  Comments (1)  

Free complete print edition: Early February, 2009

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Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mississippi’s Petal High Band marches into history


With a stopover at Warren County’s Skyline High for a final practice

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

From left, Principal Trombonist E.J. Miller, Flute Section Leader Ericka Morris, Drum Major Greg Barr and Color Guard Captain Josie Taylor. Photo by Roger Bianchini.

From left, Principal Trombonist E.J. Miller, Flute Section Leader Ericka Morris, Drum Major Greg Barr and Color Guard Captain Josie Taylor. Photo by Roger Bianchini.

Prepare yourselves for “a memory of a lifetime” was the general message of Warren County and Town of Front Royal officials greeting a high school band from Petal, Mississippi, to Front Royal and Skyline High School on Jan. 19. While school was closed for Martin Luther King Day, school administrators opened two-year-old Skyline High’s doors and grounds to allow the Petal High School Marching Band a final outdoor rehearsal prior to their appearance in the Presidential Inaugural Parade the following day.

And while the Petal Marching Band is no stranger to honors, state championships and appearances around the nation, several band members we spoke to seemed to realize the import of the approaching moment to themselves, their band, school and nation.

Preparing for the cold - whats that tuba doing on your head? Photo by Roger Bianchini.

Preparing for the cold - what's that tuba doing on your head? Photo by Roger Bianchini.

“This is the biggest thing since Kennedy’s Inauguration,” Principal Trombonist E.J. Miller observed of the mood of many younger Americans.  For while President John F. Kennedy may be ancient history to the teens of the early 21st Century, his well reported appeal to the nation’s youth of the early 1960’s rings familiar to their own generation’s emotional connections to President Obama.

“It’s a true blessing for me to be in this organization and to see the President and to be able to march in the parade. To be in the band selected out of all the different bands in Mississippi is a true blessing and an honor,” 17-year-old T.J. Taylor said as he stood with fellow baritone player Joy Grimsley preparing to brave temperatures 30-some degrees colder than characteristic of their home town.

Petal High Assistant Band Director Chris Word is greeted by Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley and Schools Superintendent Pam McInnis. Photo by Roger Bianchini.

Petal High Assistant Band Director Chris Word is greeted by Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley and Schools Superintendent Pam McInnis. Photo by Roger Bianchini.

We asked Trombonist Miller if the cold and snow might dampen the Mississippi band’s spirits come inauguration day.
“It doesn’t matter. My mind’s not going to be focused on that, my mind is going to be focused on how awesome it is to be there,” Miller enthused, along with Flute Section Leader Ericka Morris, who agreed wholeheartedly that the weather would be irrelevant to the events of the following day for the Petal contingent.

And while the temperatures on the 19th hovered slightly below freezing throughout the day, as if on cue as the band left the comfortable confines of Skyline High’s auditorium around 1:45 p.m., the clouds lifted, snow flurries evaporated and the sun even peeked out to cast a soft glow as the 158-strong Petal Marching Band and Color Guard warmed to their task in the Skyline football stadium parking lot.

As the brass and reeds warmed both their lips and instruments at one end of the lot and the drumline beat a steady rhythm at the other end, it quickly became apparent why Petal High was one of 70 marching bands chosen to participate in the 56th US Presidential inauguration from a pool of 1,300 applicants.

“They are better than my high school band already and they’re only warming up,” Dan McDermott whispered to me in case any ghosts of his high school past were listening.

“Yea, this droning horn and reed warm up with the drums rattling away down there is pretty avant garde – I wonder what their stage band is like?” I wondered aloud.

Ninth-grade Principal Mike Lott, one of Petal High’s four principals, pointed out that 40 percent of his school’s 1,200, 9-12 grade students are involved in music in one way or another.

The Petal High School Band website – http://www.petalbands.org  – notes it “is the largest organization in the Petal School District, comprised of approximately 160 students in grades 9-12. During the fall, these students are a part of the All-Superior PHS Marching Band. The band performs at football games and makes appearances at parades and community events as well as competitions throughout the South. During the winter and spring, the band is divided into two performing ensembles that include the PHS Symphonic and Concert Bands. The Petal Band program now also offers winter performing opportunities with the Indoor Visual Ensemble and the Indoor Percussion Theatre. All of these groups have received continuous superior ratings in state and regional competitions.” – And some federal, state and local bureaucrats and politicians would have you believe the arts don’t enrich the US student experience enough to fund directly.

Lott said that while the Town of Petal’s population is about 10,000, the school district’s population reaches beyond the town limits into Forrest County to serve a total of about 25,000 people.

And while the band is no stranger to travel and awards, Trombonist Miller said the band’s director didn’t initially alert the band about the application for the Inaugural Parade out of fear of setting his oung charges up for a big fall.

“Our Band Director Mr. “G” (Garnard) made the statement to our Hattiesburg American Newspaper that he didn’t even expect to make it, that’s why he didn’t say anything [to us] about it. And then when he got the papers back it was a huge surprise for us.”

And speaking of huge – Warren Public Schools Superintendent Pamela McInnis noted that Skyline (60) and the new Warren County High (50) bands combined were smaller than the Petal contingent.

As the band practiced on Skyline High’s grounds under the watchful eyes of Assistant Directors Ryan Saul and Chris Word on Jan. 19, Director Mr. Mike Garnard was in DC running through the logistics of the Petal High School Band’s march through history the following day.

“We congratulate you on your achievement, and maybe someday our schools can reach the kind of achievement you have – we hope so at least,” the Petal band, school officials and sponsors were told during welcoming ceremonies in Skyline’s auditorium.

Front Royal, VA Mayor Eugene Tewalt, Warren County, VA Board of Supervisros Chairman Archie Fox, FR Vice Mayor Bret Hrbek, Town Councilmen Shae Parker and Chris Holloway and Warren County, VA Administrator Doug Stanley, his wife and family joined McInnis in welcoming the Petal contingent to Front Royal as a staging area for its jump to the nation’s capital just 70 miles to the east the following day.

Also lauded for their work in facilitating Petal’s trip north were members of Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce on both ends of the trip. Local resident Stephanie Fretwell of the Linden Rotary, whose sister lives in the Forrest County-Hattiesburg area of Mississippi where Petal is, acknowledged several months of logistical efforts to see that Petal High would have their place on the national stage on Jan. 20, 2009, as Barack H. Obama is inaugurated as the 56th President of the United States. Deborah Reynolds (not that one, you aging movie buffs), both a Petal Rotarian and Chamber President thanked her local counterparts for their help, and other local officials for their support and assistance as the Petal Band got in its final practice before the big day.

And remember what the late opera singer Pavorotti said about practice, kids – “If I don’t practice for one day, I notice; if I don’t practice for two days, the band notices; and if I don’t practice for three days, the audience notices.”

The band arrived in Front Royal at about 11 a.m. on Jan. 19 after an overnight stay in a Roanoke Holiday Inn. They descended on the South Street Burger King and McDonald’s for lunch before arriving at Skyline to be greeted by Activities Adminstrator Buck Smith at 1 p.m. They will stay at the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center in southern Warren County the evening of the 19th before heading east early.

“I think they told us we’d be getting a 4 a.m. breakfast call,” one band member pondered. That estimate was later pared back even earlier as those around the band said they were expecting to pull out of the 4-H Center and Warren County by 4:30 a.m. for their march into the historical American landscape.

(Dan McDermott contributed to this story)

Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 5:36 am  Comments (1)  

Top Mississippi high school band preps for Inauguration Parade at Front Royal, Virginia school

Story and photos by Dan McDermott
Warren County Report Newspaper

17 year-old T. J. Taylor stands in 30 degree weather with 16 year-old Joy Grimsley as the two baritone players await practice outside Skyline High School in Front Royal, VA Jan. 19.

Both are members of the 160-strong Petal High School Band in Petal, MS which was selected to represent the state of Mississippi in the 2008 Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, DC. More than 1,300 different bands applied for 70 slots in tomorrow’s  march through the nation’s capitol. Petal HS will be the only representative from the state of Mississippi.

A slightly shivering Taylor, who had traveled from a town 30 degrees warmer, was bursting with pride at the opportunity to represent a state of almost 3 million people at what is expected to be the largest attended Inauguration Parade in American history. “It’s a true blessing for me to be in this organization and to see the President and to be able to march in the parade. To be in the band selected out of all the different bands in Mississippi is a true blessing and an honor,” Taylor said.

Front Royal, VA Mayor Eugene Tewalt, Town Councilman Shae Parker and Warren County, VA Administrator Doug Stanley were among the local dignitaries who welcomed the band.

The students and many of their parents and boosters will spend the night at the Northern Virginia Regional 4-H Center since D.C. hotel vacancies are virtually non-existent.

Hear the drum line practicing: Petal High School Drum Line

[140 total pictures. Click on the picture above for more.]

Published in: on January 19, 2009 at 6:13 pm  Comments (3)  

The Front Royal Police Department announces increased patrols this weekend

From a release:

The Front Royal Police Department wishes to announce that beginning on Friday January 16th, there will be extra
officers patrolling the streets to locate impaired drivers for the weekend. This will be a part of the CHECKPOINT STRIKEFORCE: OVER THE LIMIT, UNDER ARREST program thru DMV. Lieutenant Clint Keller states “Our department is dedicated to getting the impaired driver off the road. We have adopted the motto NO EXCUSES. NO EXCEPTIONS. If you are caught driving impaired, you will be arrested.” Driving Under the Influence is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $2500 dollars along with 12 months in jail, along with license suspension.

Motorists are cautioned that they may encounter a police officer on a traffic stop with their emergency lights flashing. A driver should slow down and move over if it can be done safely.

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 6:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Warren County officially opens new Linden Compactor Site

Warren County has completed the development of the new Linden compactor site. The new compactor site is located approximately ¼ mile west on Route 649 (Dismal Hollow Road) from the former location next to the Apple House. The new site encompasses one acre and includes two compactors, recycling containers and an attendant building.

According to Doug Stanley, County Administrator, the new facility offers a number of improvements including:

  • Safer access for residents
  • Additional room for recycling opportunities
  • Better traffic flow
  • Attendant building with restroom facilities for site attendant

Archie Fox, Chairman of the Board, indicated that, “The new compactor site really turned out nicely and will serve residents of the County for many years to come. I want to thank Larry Andrews for his generosity in donating the land to the County to allow us to make this long awaited improvement. This represents the first of two proposed compactor site upgrades to improve access for our residents.”

Tony Carter, Supervisor for the Happy Creek District, indicated that, “The new compactor site will provide a safe, quick and convenient location for residents to dispose of their trash and recyclables. Thanks to all of the County staff who had a hand in working on the project. ”

According to Dick Magnifico, Deputy County Administrator, “As part of the project, the former compactor location at the Apple House will be cleared and restored. The total cost for the improvements to the site was $711,879.96, which includes design and engineering costs.”

Stanley added that the County Capital Improvement Plan includes the eventual upgrade/replacement of the Route 340/522 compactor in coming years as well. “We have had a real need to expand and modernize these facilities due to the population growth that has occurred. It has taken a number of years to identify and acquire sites and to budget for the funds to make the necessary improvements, but the wait has been worth it for the residents of the area.”

The County would like to take the opportunity to thank the Apple House and Ben Lacy and George McIntyre for leasing the County the location for the past 20 years. The site served the community well until the County ultimately outgrew the site. The County would also like to thank Joyce Engineering and Key Construction for their work on the design and construction of the site.

Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Structure Fire Causes Major Damage

Warren County Fire and Rescue units responded to a reported townhouse on fire with entrapment in 600 block of West 11th Street in Front Royal on Tuesday morning, January 13. A staffed ambulance arrived within 2 minutes at 619 West 11th St. from the hospital to find heavy smoke showing from roof of a two story townhouse. They assisted with evacuation that had been started by neighbors and passersby. Fire units arrived a short time later to find fire showing from the rear and smoke through the roof. Primary search was conducted to verify all occupants were out of the structure and fire was located in the second floor bedroom and void spaces of the roof and floor. Initial assignment brought units from Companies 1, 10, 2 and Truck 1, as well as County career staff. As size up showed fire extension into adjoining townhouses at 617 and 621 West 11th St. , a second alarm was requested and brought units from 4 and 51(StrasburgVFC 51).  Fire was brought under control in  50 minutes with complete extinguishment and overhaul taking 3 ½  hours.

The homeowners, Nicholson Enterprises owned the townhouses at 617 and 619, while 621 was owned by David Zigler of Manassas. Damage to 617 was estimated at $25,000, 621 at $45,000 and 621, the building of origin, at $125,000.  While occupants of 619 and 621 were staying with relatives, the occupants of 617 were being assisted by the Warren County Chapter of the Red Cross.

There were no injuries to occupants, but three firefighters received minor injuries, two of which were treated at Warren Memorial Hospital and released.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Warren County Fire and Rescue but is not believed suspicious.

Time of Call – 8:20 AM
Dispatch – 8:22 AM    Engines 1, 10, 2, Truck 1, Truck 10, Career staff
On scene – 8:25 AM    Fire from rear roof area
2nd Alarm – 8:47 AM       Engines 4 and Truck and Engine 51 (Strasburg)
Under Control – 9:42 AM
Cleared – 12:09  PM

Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Restaurants file suit over corridor meals tax fees

Meals tax singled out as ‘pass-through’ tax on customers

By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report

Front Royal, VA – Anticipated for over two months, the lawsuit challenging inclusion of a Town of Front Royal meals tax in “PILOT” fees attached to commercial central water and sewer bills in the Route 522 North Corridor was filed in Warren County Circuit Court on Friday, Jan. 9.

The three plaintiffs are the primary national chain restaurants, Cracker Barrel, Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s, located in either the Riverton Commons or Crooked Run Commercial Centers on both sides of Route 340/522 just north of the Interstate 66 Front Royal interchange. The restaurants are not challenging the Corridor Agreement or PILOT fees in general, but rather have singled out the one fee – the meals tax – that is hitting them hardest in the pocket.

The suit states inclusion of the town meals tax component of the PILOT fees has raised the restaurants’ monthly water and sewer bills about 650 percent – from “under $1,000 to nearly $7,300” in one Applebee’s bill cited; from “approximately $2,000 to nearly $15,000” in a Cracker Barrel bill; and from “under $2,500 to over $12,000″ in a referenced TGI Friday bill.

In a mid-September press conference, town officials presented an April 2008 Cracker Barrel water-sewer bill totaling $13,674. Of that amount, $13,169 was in PILOT fees, with $12,330 of that total comprised of the meals tax component.
In September we asked lead attorney for the restaurants, William “Sandy” Rowe, why his clients had signed contracts that appear to include the town meals tax in the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) fees attached to town central water and sewer bills. Rowe responded that “a careful reading” of those service contracts reveal only agreement to provide revenue and tax information to the town upon which to base calculation of the various taxes included in the PILOT fees. He explained further that the restaurants believe the meals tax is a pass through tax to customers, rather than a tax on the business itself. So while the restaurants may have agreed to supply information on their food sales that a meals tax could be calculated from, Rowe contends the restaurants did not agree to pay the meals tax component of the fees.

Rowe categorizes a meals tax with others not included in the PILOT fees. In the suit such taxes are listed as employee withholding, the county’s meals tax, and state sales and use taxes – “None of these are taxes the Plaintiffs would pay to the Town if the Restaurants were located within the Town,” the suit states.

“If the restaurants were located within the Town, each would collect the Town’s Meals Tax from its customers and would remit the tax to the Town.”

The suit continues to cite the town’s own codes, Section 75-24, in upholding that argument.

“There is hereby imposed and levied by the Town on each person at the rate of (4%) on the amount paid for meals purchased from any food establishment, whether prepared in such food establishment … or not, and whether consumed on the premises or not.” (Bold typeface added by plaintiff),” the suit quotes from the town code.

The Front Royal Town Council meets Monday night, Jan. 12. One agenda item was a request for an official letter of support upholding a Resolution of support a split Warren County Board of Supervisors approved last year. A closed meeting to discuss the suit was added to the council’s Jan. 12 agenda.

The PILOT fees are designed to protect the town’s interest in not only covering the cost of providing central water and sewer to businesses located outside its limits, but also against potential lost tax revenues should in-town businesses suffer from the new county-based competition enabled by the agreement entered into by the town and county in 1998. The agreement was seen as a compromise that helped avoid a contested annexation of the corridor area the town would have filed to provide such services without the agreement.

Town Manager Michael Graham has pointed out the town has budgeted in the anticipated corridor fee revenues to support its current 2009 fiscal year budget. Town Finance Director Kim Gilkey-Breeden told council on Jan. 5, the loss of the meals tax component of the corridor fees would cost the town about $656,000 of total anticipated corridor revenues of $875,000 in the current budget year.

The 1998 corridor agreement was seen as a first of its kind in Virginia and was upheld by the state legislature and a special three-judge panel that reviewed its basic premises. While one small food operation, now Bullets, tied to the Quarles Truck Stop has paid the meals tax component of the fees since 2001, this is the first legal challenge of that aspect of the agreement.

rogerb@warrencountyreport.com

Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 3:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Free complete print edition: Mid January, 2009

Click here to open

Inside this issue:

  • Front Royal, VA woman loses finger in domestic dispute
  • Browntown Road shooting
  • Additional charges filed in Warren County, VA house ramming incident
  • Two arrested in Papa John’s Pizza robbery
  • Be on the lookout for Daniel Eli of Bethlehem, PA
  • Driveway scams
  • Openings for Citizens Police Academy
  • R-MA teacher honored
  • State River Park attendance down
  • New Linden, VA trash site opens
  • Town of Front Royal, VA approaches liaison: Let’s talk – just not about ‘that’
  • Warren County, VA approves 5-pronged January liaison agenda
  • Capt. Richard H. Furr makes it official – applying for Front Royal, VA police chief’s job
  • Del. Clay Athey’s Report from Richmond, VA
  • Neighbors point fingers (not guns) during shooting debate
  • ‘Pawsitive Pup’ makes dog grooming more convenient
  • NFL playoffs – Still Cheering Purple Pride
  • Activities & events in Front Royal and Warren County, VA
  • Opinion: The Gaza Holocaust
  • Letter: History’s Revenge
  • Front Royal/Warren County, VA Chamber of Commerce news
  • Entire issue is free here.

Also, 2008: The Year in Review

  • 2008 – It wasn’t that great: From bad weather to a lousy economy – good riddance
  • Inventor John Kovak: Childhood machine could be key to clean energy production in Front Royal, VA
  • CPV, Dominion Power make it official – the ‘buy’ is on
  • Paying for our own noose? Front Royal, VA debates the true price of power – 50 years of coal
  • Loss of father, two young children mourned at Candlelight Vigil
  • Town of Front Royal, VA approves corridor, EDA resolutions  – Threat of litigation by Riverton Commons restaurants hovers over passage
  • First Crooked Run Center tax revenue estimates in
  • Town, FDR Services settle water-sewer rate war – Two years of litigation ends with compromise, 15-year service contract
  • Should the Dow be at 3,000? Up a grand, down a grand – Great Depression 2.0?
  • Show me the money – Brooks calls out EDA financing – EDA’s reduced municipal funding request opens a fiscal can of worms
  • Town move on EDA assets likely futile – Virginia state law protects autonomy of economic development authorities
  • Town to EDA – ‘Pretty please with sugar on top’ – Town rephrases effort to gain control of millions in EDA assets
  • Abusive driver fees’ hit the dustbin of legislative history – Refunds included in ‘civil remedial fee’ repeal signed into law by Virginia governor
  • Virginia Governor Tim Kaine cites importance of dialogue in state government
  • Va. Supreme Court rules against NVTA road taxing – Local plaintiff, delegate weigh in on decision, state funding responsibilities
  • Questions remain about Virginia state trooper collision – Public’s right to know at issue as accident investigation continues
  • Humane Society board recalled under contentious circumstances – Accusations fly over membership voting eligibility, animal care priorities
  • Wagner Shelter two weeks later – ‘a remarkable change’; In the wake of contentious board recall, humans & animals move on
  • Monk murder mystery – A personal remembrance of a soul in wonder
  • Entire issue is free here.

Guns, carcasses & ‘buzzards’ in rural Warren County, Virginia

Tempers flare over proximity of gunfire, deer carcasses and ‘Turkey Buzzards’

By Greg Johnson
Warren County Report

Neighbors seeking a county code change to add the Stonewall Estates Subdivision (SES) to the list of county subdivisions where the discharge of firearms is legally prohibit ran into a technical difficulty in the wake of a sometimes contentious Dec. 16 Public Hearing before the Warren County Board of Supervisors. That difficulty was that the request came from individuals, rather than an official neighborhood entity such as a property owners association. The subdivision does not have a formal property owners association as of yet.

Following the public hearing, County Administrator Doug Stanley told the board the reason to have county codes amended to include the discharge of firearms as a misdemeanor violation within neighborhoods was to give the Sheriffs Office authority to bring criminal charges against violators. Citing the public hearing debate, North River Supervisor Glenn White observed that property owners had already agreed not to discharge firearms within the boundaries of  the subdivision by signing the neighborhood covenants and were further subject to existing state codes on the discharge of firearms. The board majority also concluded that the matter was one in which it was necessary to have some entity other than individuals act for the subdivision.

The Board voted down a motion to approve the requested ordinance addition by a 3-2 vote, Carter, Glavis and Fox forming the majority, acknowledging that were a Property Owners Association formed, the new POA could reintroduce the request.

In introducing the public hearing on the request, County Attorney Blair Mitchell told the board that several residents of the subdivision had petitioned the board to add their subdivision to the seven subdivisions within Warren County where such behavior is subject to criminal prosecution. Mitchell said petitioning residents reported hearing extensive gunfire and produced an e-mailed photo picturing dead deer carcasses in close proximity of one home in the area. Mitchell reported that the neighborhood covenants prohibit the discharge of firearms within the subdivisions boundaries, but those covenants provide only civil remedies, not enforceable by the Warren County Sheriffs Office.

Resident Mary Dougherty told the Supervisors that residents hear gunfire throughout hunting season and expressed concern for the safety of the children and a resultant decrease in property values. She did observe that properties adjacent to the neighborhood did permit the discharge of firearms for hunting and other sporting purposes. Tom Dougherty followed and reiterated the issues his wife had expressed.

In an impassioned statement citing the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, Herb Dunkle said that equal protection under the law was the primary underlying issue of the discussion. Dunkle, who has butted heads with the county over ordinance restrictions imposing aesthetic standards on how private property must be maintained, said county codes should not exceed Virginia state law on the use of firearms or any other property right. State law, he stated, makes it unlawful to discharge a firearm within 100 yards of any structure, road or pathway. That is all the legislation necessary to address the concerns expressed during the public hearing, Dunkle told the board.

Following Dunkle’s observations, Ray Clark said of his neighbors seeking the new county ordinance –  “These people are out of control.”

“All the property owners signed these [neighborhood] covenants prohibiting the use of firearms but they would have you believe that people are ‘running wild’ on the roads, firing guns and jumping ATV’s over car hoods,” Clark said.

Clark further stated that any resident could bring suit against any other resident in court for violating SES covenants and that the issue was a matter for civil remedy between neighbors, rather than the impetus for a county ordinance change. Clark told the Board his intention was not to ‘cast stones ‘ at any one but asserted he was being wrongly accused by his neighbors on the firearms violations. Clark surmised no civil action had been brought against him over those alleged violations due to his neighbors’ own liability on other covenant violations. He also brought the board’s attention to the Warren County map of the Cooley Road area where it had been alleged that firearm violations were taking place. Clark contended that previous speakers were exaggerating the density of the houses in the area.

Clark also directly asked the board who sent the accusing e-mail photos targeting him, adding that any deer found dead on his property were taken legally. Per public hearing guidelines, Clark got no direct response to his question from the board.

Despite Clark’s assertions about the neighborhood’s layout, another resident, Dr. Garrigan, told the board the neighborhood was too ‘tightly packed’ to permit the safe use of firearms. Garrigan supported earlier speakers’ concerns for the safety of residents and their children.

Don Eckers was next to the podium. Eckers turned to Clark in the audience and stated, “I sent the e-mails.” Board Chairman Archie Fox then admonished Eckers, reminding the speaker to address his remarks to the board, rather than others present. Eckers then told the board that “Turkey Buzzards” had been lined up on the peak of the roof of his home across the road from Clark’s property. Eckers said his wife, whom he characterized as a ‘country girl from Utah,’ told him there must be ‘carcasses nearby’ to attract the buzzards. Eckers said he later walked about thirty steps onto Clark’s property where he had seen and photographed about five deer carcasses within a 10 by 30-yard area.

Perhaps attempting to lighten the mood, Supervisor Glenn White informed Eckers that the proper name of the birds roosting on his roof was ‘Turkey Vulture,’ rather than ‘Buzzard,” or more properly, simply ‘Vultures.”

Clark, who had earlier commented that any deer on his property had been taken legally, then returned to the podium and informed the assembly it was his intention to obtain a trespassing complaint against Eckers. Clark then fingered Eckers for the earlier alleged covenant violations, citing an undue accumulation of trash bags at his neighbor’s residence.

Published in: on January 9, 2009 at 9:21 pm  Comments (1)  
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