Monday, October 14, 2013

Of horses and dogs

Retired Goochland General District  Court Judge William Talley once opined that cases involving horses or dogs rarely end well.

The October 1 Board of Supervisors’ public hearing agenda included items that addressed both subjects.

Following significant push back from citizen dog owners about a proposed change to the ordinance regulating companion animals, the county went back to the drawing board. The version up for consideration this month did not seem to be any more satisfactory. Many owners of hunting and show dogs filled the board meeting room and explained their concerns about proposed changes to the ordinance.

The county is trying to craft a mechanism to provide redress for residents suffering from incessant barking from dogs on neighboring properties. As the remedy must find a way to deal with immutable facts—dogs bark and sound carries—without impinging on the rights of responsible and conscientious dog owners.
After much discussion during both the afternoon and evening board sessions, the ordinance is back on the drawing board. Another version is expected to be on the November 6 agenda. (Note: the regular November meeting of the supervisors will be held on Wednesday, to avoid Election Day conflicts.)

The “horse” item on the agenda was an application to renew a conditional use application for the Swift Creek School of Equitation on Millers Lane. This enterprise, which has been in operation since 1978, has taught--in addition to horsemanship—love and respect for animals, responsibility and the value of hard work—to several generations. The supervisors unanimously approved the application.

When the current owner of Swift Creek, Gail Thompson, decided to retire, she felt an obligation to her students ensure continuity of the operation. After a careful search, she found the perfect successor and purchaser of the property in Jessica Clise. In order to secure financing for the purchase, Clise needs a 15 year continuation of the CUP.
With the exception of the owner of a house that was formerly part of the Swift Creek property, the neighbors support the existence and continuation of the horse boarding and riding school facility. The dissenting neighbor, who bought her property well after the Swift Creek School of Equitation was established, complained (in person to the planning commission and in writing to the supervisors) about noise, odors, and alleged trespassing of riders. District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey observed that was a little like “buying a house next to the railroad tracks and complaining about train noise.”

A somewhat similar CUP extension was unanimously approved for 800 Broad Street Road near at the intersection of Three Chopt Road west of Centerville, currently the site of Wedgewood Properties. The barn on this parcel was exquisitely renovated for office and storage use to preserve the rural view shed.
Lillian Daniels, the applicant, plans to operate a small mail order theatrical make up business from the site. The proposed use is will generate less traffic than Wedgewood Properties. Daniels plans to live in the adjoining home.

The supervisors also unanimously approved a cell tower CUP application that, while it will benefit the county as a whole, makes some changes to a small residential enclave on Triple Estates Lane, south of Sheppard Town Road.

As cell tower coverage is sketchy in some parts of the county, the applicant, National Communications Towers, LLC, provided propagation maps illustrating signal improvements that would be provided by the tower under discussion.

The tower itself will be built on land owned by Edwin Wilson. Although residents of Triple Estates Lane contended that placement of the tower in a residential area is a departure from the location of existing towers along major highways and in uninhabited areas. They also believe that the tower is not needed.
National Communications explained that the tower base will be screened from view by existing trees and other planted as part of the tower’s construction. Verizon is expected to be the initial provider on the tower. County public safety communications will also be located on the tower. Language to give the county right of first refusal should the tower fall into disuse. Triple Estates Road will be widened and improved by National Tower. The road to the tower will be curved to further obscure the equipment at the tower’s base.
A member of the county assessor’s staff contended that there is ample evidence that location of cell towers in residential areas does not have a negative impact on nearby property values. There is a tower in Rivergate, one of Goochland’s exclusive upscale enclaves.

A video recording of the entire evening session is available on the county website under the livestream tab on the home page.

Land use decisions coming before the supervisors will increase in complexity and number in the coming months. They have demonstrated a willingness to examine the ramifications of changes and are working hard to avoid unintended consequences.

No comments: