Most monthly Culpeper County Board of Supervisors meetings are not well attended by the public at large. That is, unless there is a topic that has caught the attention of enough residents that they will take the time to come.
Such was the case Tuesday morning as supervisors arrived to a filled meeting room.
The first item under general county business was for the board to consider a request by the Islamic Center of Culpeper for a pump and haul permit on a parcel of land, about an acre, located on Route 229 at 14434 Rixeyville Road.
Planning Director John Egertson reported that all was in order with the application. He also stated that the applicant does have a contract on the property but that it hadn’t gone to closing. The property in question has an uninhabitable structure. Egertson said that he and his staff had met with the applicant who intended to demolish the building and construct a prayer center where they planned to meet perhaps twice per week for a couple of hours. Egertson also said that a pump and haul request was not subject to a public hearing.
In the past, the board has considered 19 pump and haul requests, approving 18 and denying one.
Supervisor Bill Chase quickly broached the subject.
“I’m dead set against this,” he said emphasizing that his decision was not based on religion but on use. Chase felt that these types of requests were for emergency situations which this is not.
Clapping and cheers accompanied his comments quickly subdued by Chairman Alexa Fritz who said later that she had received many unsettling phone calls and was particularly disturbed when a sign appeared in her district painted in red clearly against approval and seemingly against her in particular.
Supervisor Sue Hansohn said that she had also received many emails and calls.
“We are supposed to support rules and regulations…we have in the past passed some applications and renewed when they have run out…our policy doesn’t give us the right to turn someone down because of religion,” said Hansohn who believed they couldn’t change the way they operate midstream. She was in favor of sending the pump and haul policy back to the rules committee for further review.
Supervisor Jack Frazier said they had been faced with a challenging decision.
For him, it got back to the hardship situation. “If there is a situation where there is no other alternative, I see that, but in this case there is not a hardship…they’re buying this property at a cheap price and stand to enhance their situation by doing this. They can walk away from this property and look to another [that doesn’t have these issues].”
“I cannot support, it’s not about who but about what,” said Frazier.
With the majority against approving the request, it died with a vote of 4-3. Those voting in favor were Brad Rosenberg, Sue Hansohn and Alexa Fritz. Those against were Steve Walker, Gary Deal, Bill Chase and Jack Frazier.
Anita Sherman may be reached at email@example.com