Written by Cameron Jones
On August 2nd theFauquier County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) upheld the determinations of Zoning Administrator Kimberley Johnson in the Piedmont Agricultural Academy (PAA) case.
As she stumbled through her argument, her major points seem to be that she “could have got them [PPA] for this [and that]”; the BZA totally ignored the reasoned case presented by PAA’s attorney, and favored the bungled investigation of Fauquier County's Ms. Johnson and her staff.
In effect the BZA has now given Ms. Johnson a license to go after any property owner based on a single complaint by anyone that may not like what that property owner does on their property. If that does not scare the hell out of you, it should!
On the same day there was a small victory for the citizens of Fauquier County as RC Hawkins Construction Company of Catlett won their appeal when the BZA refused to uphold Ms. Johnson’s citation concerning an alleged violation of expanding a business in a non-conforming use.
The ZA used similar tactics to those employed against PAA to go after Mr. Hawkins and his 41 year old family business.
In this case the staff based their allegations on the complaint of a single neighbor who claimed to speak for several surrounding neighbors. The ZA and her staff did not perform due diligence, and Mr. Hawkins (whom I have spoken to extensively) says that some of these neighbors told him that they have not even spoken to the complainant in several years because no one can get along with him!
The ZA used Face Book, Google Earth, and a 1998 Aerial Survey from USGS, and tried to apply a 1981 ordinance to a business established in 1970 with BZA approval.
They claimed illegal buildings have been built on the property, and Mr. Hawkins has had to spend a lot of time to locate these building permits, and this has taken him away from his business at a critical economic time for himself and his employees. He has also spent over $10,000 fighting these allegations.
These same permits could not be located by the County who is supposed to be the keeper of the records. Some, but not all of them, were eventually located in the basement of an office building in Warrenton, but Mr. Hawkins is still left with the burden of proof on other buildings on the property.
Do you have the building permit for your house? If the County came out tomorrow and said there was never a permit to build it and cited you for an illegal structure, could you prove them wrong? This is exactly what has happened to Mr. Hawkins!
Guilty until proven innocent seems to be the MO of the ZA, and this has been upheld by the BZA in almost every instance.
Mr. Hawkins alleges that the ZA and her staff have also gone after him at his private residence, using photos taken by a trespasser who is known to the county, but whose name was redacted from the citation. The County refused to cite the trespasser when Mr. Hawkins tried to press charges.
Again, a single complainant with an axe to grind is the cause of a citation from the ZA against a citizen; see a pattern here?
If this sounds too surreal to be true, think again. This is how our Zoning Administrator and our Board of Zoning Appeals operates. If you are a property owner you are guilty until you prove through great expense of time and money, that you are innocent. The burden of proof lies with you, not the ZA.
That is not supposed to be the way we operate in these United States.
You may not believe this affects you, but if you own property in Fauquier County you better take notice, because if left unchecked this Zoning Administrator may come after you sooner or later.
Fauquier County Citizens for Family Farms ( fauquiercountycitizensforfamilyfarms.com) continues to call for the dismissal of Zoning Administrator, Kimberley Johnson. Please visit our website for more information, and if you have had adverse dealings with the Zoning Administrator please contact us.
Cameron Jones Catlett, VA