- Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 December 2008 17:38
- Published on Wednesday, 10 December 2008 17:38
- Hits: 252
Northern Neck Historical Society President Virginia Brown, Afghanistan War combatant Chip Jones and James Monroe Foundation President Bill Thomas may find that they have lots of help when they return to Westmoreland County.
A highlight of this Monday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting was Supervisor Lynn Brownley’s white paper presentation that proposed to use the jurisdiction’s historic assets for economic development purposes.
Work on a James Monroe Birthplace visitor center was completed earlier this year and the Monroe Foundation still plans to construct a replica of the home in which James Monroe was born.
After six decades of effort, the old Monroe family farm will be added to the historically rich jurisdiction’s list of tourist attractions. Foundation President Bill Thomas has praised the Foundation’s partnership with Westmoreland in the effort to develop the Monroe Birthplace and has characterized the initiative as the critical mass needed to convert the county’s historic assets into an economic engine
Virginia Brown, who championed the Monroe Foundation’s cause, is wintering in Florida with her son but plans to return in time for the April celebration of Monroe’s 351st birthday.
Despite Brown’s absence, Northern Neck Historical Society is busier than ever. As this edition of The Journal goes to press, former Journal reporter Kat Ballentine Shepherd is delivering a presentation about the contributions of Westmoreland native Bushrod Washington in his capacity as a United States Supreme Court Justice.
Ballentine is an attorney, legal scholar and Supreme Court docent who resides in the Montross area and holds the position of Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society Executive Director.
Jones is a Northern Neck State Bank employee and Westmoreland resident who was called to active duty in the military and had already completed a tour in Iraq when he returned to Westmoreland long enough to cause a Northern Neck Division of Motor Vehicles license plate to be created.
Jones has since been deployed to Afghanistan. Before his most recent departure he briefed Westmoreland Citizens Association about the advantages the jurisdiction might expect to derive from participation in a regional heritage tourism program.
At home in Westmoreland County this Monday night were Citizens’ Association President Kennon Morris and Association member Gary Hutt. Hutt is completing a white paper of his own concerning development of local historic and other assets for revenue generating purposes. He will present his findings to the Association on January 26.
Very early in the Board’s December 8 proceeding Colonial Beach Councilman Steve Kennedy spoke of his own visit to Luray, Virginia and that locality’s revitalization activities, which he believes can work as well for the Town of Colonial Beach.
Throughout the briefing Kennedy emphasized the interdependence of Colonial Beach and Westmoreland County, urging greater cooperative efforts to launch a tourism-based economic development initiative that would capitalize on shared geographic and historic assets. He envisions creation of an historic trail that would connect Luray to Virginia’s Northern Neck.
Late in the Board’s December 8 public meeting Morris expressed the idea shared by many. More residential subdivisions are not the economic development engine Westmoreland County needs.
On December 8 Supervisor Brownely praised the occasional success of the jurisdiction’s past economic development efforts.
“We must do more to avoid continued stagnation and dependence solely on a growing retiree tax base,” he explained during a session that earlier adopted a resolution projecting that 29.8 of the county’s population with be 65 or older by 2030.
“Given the general economic landscape our country faces and the special challenges facing our rural community, we should locate and consider engaging a specialist,” the Supervisor said.
Brownley suggested that Westmoreland County begin pursuing its own version of economic encouragement, a departure from past reliance on state economic development initiatives.
“We should proactively market Westmoreland County, promoting and enhancing tourism and recreational values,” Brownley said, adding that the measures would provide land owners with needed options for protecting their properties’ rural attributes. More of the Supervisor’s presentation will be shared in next week’s Journal.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 December 2008 17:12
- Published on Wednesday, 10 December 2008 17:12
- Hits: 359
Earlier this year all but one of the sexual child abuse charges against Wayne DiRosario had been officially dismissed. On November 19 the final allegation that the former Colonial Beach Mayor and Westmoreland County Supervisor sexually abused a child was also laid to rest.
The final outstanding charge had been supported by a Westmoreland Social Services Department investigation, but DiRosario appealed the determination to state Social Services agency authorities.
That appeal was taken to the Virginia Social Services Department’s Appeals and Fair Hearings Unit before Administrative Hearing Officer Michele Anne Gillette on September 10, 2008.
The eighteen-page document dated November 19, 2008 and signed by Gillette delivered a decision that “the disposition of ‘Founded Sexual Abuse(Sexual Molestation) Level One’ of Briana Brewster by David Wayne DiRosario is amended to ‘Unfounded.’”
A Findings of Fact section of the official document notes that the child DiRosario allegedly abused is the biological granddaughter of DiRosario’s estranged wife, Terri, and that during the period when the couple was married, the wife’s two biological children alleged that Wayne had sexually abused both of them.
The stepson, the document notes, later recanted his accusation under oath and the stepdaughter, “who was hospitalized for treatment of mental illness, also recanted her allegation.”
Allegations that Wayne DiRosario sexually abused the step granddaughter during Summer 2005 lacked the support of a preponderance of evidence,” the hearing officer reasoned after reviewing the large body of information that had accumulated during the approximately three-year life of that child abuse allegation.
An Analysis section of the same document states that “the evidences shows that the allegations of abuse in this case were made against a background of significant domestic disfunction that occurred over a number of years.
“The evidence shows that this domestic turmoil included many other allegations of physical and sexual abuse made against [Wayne DiRosario] and his two step-children, none of which were determined to be ‘Founded.’
“[Wayne DiRosario] himself testified that the previous complaints were made in an effort to influence or manipulate either his behavior or that of his wife.”
The document noted that no medical evidence existed to indicate that the step granddaughter had ever been abused.
Referencing the two stepchildren’s recanted prior accusations, the report suggests that the local Social Services Department investigation “relied on patently unreliable information.”
DiRosario says he’d glad to have these years of agony behind him. He told The Journal that he wants to get on with his life and will not forget the people who never lost their belief in his integrity.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 22:57
- Published on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 22:57
- Hits: 258
Westmoreland County is in the process of creating a brand new Comprehensive Plan and the Northern Neck Planning District Office is attempting to coordinate the effort.
Planning District Director Jerry Davis met again this Monday with the Westmoreland Planning Commissioners. A decision was made to give residents one more month to complete a crucially important four-page survey document.
The period for accepting survey returns had already been extended on multiple occasions. Davis and the county’s Planning Commissions wanted the next Plan to be optimally driven by citizen positions.
The Comprehensive Plan serves as the basis for a local government’s land use practices. The currently pending survey solicits individual responses to land use policy that hold the potential for influencing land use practices far into the future.
In addition to the paper survey documents that can be obtained from county offices and public libraries in Hague, Montross and Colonial Beach, the survey can be completed on the Internet by visiting the specially created Westmoreland 2030.org website.
To launch the ambitious effort to create a new Comprehensive plan, Davis and the Planning Commissioners hosted three kick-off sessions in as many different Westmoreland County locations.
The informational sessions that additionally solicited input from the local residents turned out to be a major disappointment for the county’s Planning Commissioners. Turnout was poor and subsequent response to the survey has been similarly sparse.
When the last survey period ended on October 31 as few as 70 completed surveys were in hand. The period was extended through November and this Monday Davis told the Commissioners that the total number of completed surveys had climbed to 120 during November’s extension period.
On November 24 the commission convened a work session attended by Colonial Beach Planning Commissioner Desiree Urquhart. Aware of the town’s current effort to create a new Comprehensive Plan and that jurisdiction’s recent citizen survey, the Westmoreland Planning Commissioners took advantage of an opportunity to gain insight concerning the process in the town.
Urquhart told the Westmoreland Planning Commission members that the town’s consultant had created Colonial Beach’s Comp Plan survey document and that it had been mailed to every resident in town.
“Over 400 completed surveys came back,” the Colonial Beach Planning Commissioner told her county counterparts. She advised that the town has 2,500 residents and characterized the survey response as “pretty significant.”
Urquhart additionally made it known that Colonial Beach held three public hearings of the purpose of optimizing citizen participation in the effort to create a new Comprehensive Plan.
“We had significant numbers of people in attendance,” she told the county Commissioners. According to the Colonial Beach Planning Commissioner, there were between 50 and 75 residents attending each of those three public input sessions.
County Commission Chairman Rob McDermott shared his own disappointment with Urquhart when he related that attendance totals at Westmoreland’s three Comp Plan kick-off sessions had been “ten, six and five private citizens.”
Progress was made at this week’s Planning Commission meeting. A tentative schedule for 2009 Comprehensive Plan considerations was devised.
With the survey period extended until the end of 2008, it was established that Davis would attend the Commission’s February 2, 2009 meeting and present survey results. That session would begin in the customary English Building meeting place at 1:30 p.m.
On the first Monday of March 2009 the Commission would convene an evening session that would begin at 7 p.m. in the English Building meeting place. The evening meeting time was touted as a means of optimizing citizens’ ability to contribute input to a document whose content will have far reaching impacts on local land use practices.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 22:41
- Published on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 22:41
- Hits: 330
During the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend Westmoreland County Zoning Administrator and Director of Planning Gary Ziegler lost a battle with cancer that predated the land use professional’s arrival in Westmoreland County in August 2005.
County Planning Commission Chairman Rob McDermott officially announced Ziegler’s death at the beginning of this Monday’s Planning Commission meeting.
“I am very sorry to report that Gary Ziegler, who has been battling cancer for quite a few years, passed away during the weekend,” McDermott related to Commissioners and private citizens who had gathered for the December 1 land use session.
“Gary’s efforts had a major impact on bringing Westmoreland County’s land use administration into the 21st Century,” McDermott then stated. “He is going to be very sorely missed.”
Ziegler arrived in Westmoreland County after successfully battling an initial cancer episode in his native Ohio. He brought decades of experience as a land use professional, holding a bachelor’s degree in planning and having additional hands-on experience in the land surveying field.
The Journal met Ziegler in May 2005, when he visited Westmoreland County as an employment candidate. The Supervisors were conducting a closed session associated with Richard Stuart’s decision to resign from the position he held as Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Board had scheduled its interview with Ziegler immediately after the return from the closed-door portion of that special meeting.
Ziegler proved easy to talk to while the reporter and employment candidate waited for the Supervisors to return. He had researched Westmoreland County prior to placing his application and said he would welcome the kind of lifestyle that the rural jurisdiction offered.
Ziegler’s official duties began in August 2005, at a time when Congressman Rob Wittman still served as Chairman of the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors.
Wittman introduced Ziegler to the public during the final minutes of the Board’s August meeting.
That meeting’s land use segment had been dominated by the fiery debate associated with the Board’s eventual approval of a controversial residential subdivision on a portion of the former Monroe family farm.
Strong emotions were expressed as Ziegler quietly compiled a meticulous set of notes. “It was a trial of fire,” Wittman said of the new employee’s August 2005 Board of Supervisors meeting experience.
A succession of issues continued to catch fire throughout Gary Ziegler’s period of service. Boathouses, new zoning and subdivision regulations, creation of a community development authority, sewers and a failed greenway proposal sparked furious debate at public meetings.
Ziegler’s cancer returned during his period of employment and the land use professional enjoyed a second period of remission. The Zoning Administrator and Director of Planning experienced physical difficulties several months ago and the condition worsened.
County Planner Beth McDowell and Land Use employee Charlie Wrightson must now continue Ziegler’s work. There had been no opportunity for members of the local government to make their intentions known concerning future staffing considerations in the local government’s Land Use Office.
Planning Professional Milton Martin previously served as interim Westmoreland County Director of Planning. Martin continued to work as a part-time county employee until May 2008, when the Hopewell resident purportedly retired.
Gary Ziegler’s funeral arrangements had not been published when this edition of The Journal went to press. On Monday the mature land use professional’s contributions were already being missed.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 05:00
- Published on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 05:00
- Hits: 280
The Westmoreland Planning Commission meeting scheduled to begin next Monday at 1:30 p.m. will be a last for District 4 Commissioner Brick Thomas. The senior Planning Commission member made it known last month that he will retire from his duties following sixteen years of uninterrupted service as the representative from District 4.
At a meeting earlier in November, District 4 Supervisor Woody Hynson praised Thomas’s contributions to Westmoreland County and declined to suggest a successor at that time. Thomas’s appointment expires on December 31.
The Commission convened a routine monthly work session this Monday. Work sessions ordinarily lack the formality of the action sessions whose agendas include advertised public hearings on land use applications.
This week’s Planning Commission work session dispensed with formalities. While Thomas found occasion to engage in playful banter with Commissioner Richard Moncure from neighboring District 5, the departing veteran also exhibited a serious side when he obtained a spot at the bottom of next week’s agenda in order to deliver departing comments about the manner in which the Bay Act is enforced.
In Westmoreland County it is the Planning Commission that is tasked with deciding the fate of Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act exceptions that cannot be administratively approved.
Since taking force during 1990 in Westmoreland, developers of waterfront lots that were platted after the Act’s 1988 adoption are expected to maintain a 100-foot protected buffer between the water and property’s new construction.
Local ordinance allows building activity to encroach into the protected areas when the impermeable surfaces resulting from new development can be mitigated by appropriate storm water management practices.
Thomas’s 1992 appointment to the Commission occurred during the county’s third year of enforcement of the Act. Westmoreland was and is the only Virginia jurisdiction that tasks its Planning Commission with deciding when construction activity can encroach into the seaward 50-feet of the Act’s protected area.
Over the years Thomas has consistently questioned the appropriateness of that Commission tasking, maintaining a strong desire to help improve the water quality of the Chesapeake and its tributaries.
Throughout his years of service, Thomas has expressed profound reluctance to allow building to occur within the most sensitive 50-feet of a waterfront property’s protected buffer.
As on previous occasions, Thomas found occasion this Monday to express strong disappointment that more has not been done to improve the water quality of the local waterways.
A staunch proponent of land owner rights when development of interior properties poses no immediate threat to a flowing body of water, Thomas’s “no” votes to so many Bay Act exception questions made the long-time Commissioner well known in many of the county’s waterfront communities.
This Monday Thomas freely spoke of his frustration.
“Thank God this will be my last one,” he said of the Commission meeting scheduled for December 1. “Next Monday is it! I have been on this Commission for sixteen years and I can’t stand it any more.”
A member of the Commission asked the departing colleague how he came to be known by everyone as Brick instead of Charles.
“If you really want to know,” he then responded, “I ran into a wall at Oak Grove High School when I was playing basketball in the gym. I hurt my head. When I started rubbing it, somebody said, ‘That fool’s got a head just like a brick.’ I guess it stuck.”
About next Monday’s placement on the agenda, Thomas told colleagues, “I’ll be making as strong a recommendation as I can on how to handle these Bay Act exceptions. I think you need to really look at the condition of the bay!”
Retired educator Thomas additionally advised the Commissioners that he expected to share some of the wisdom he had learned from John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
When told that Supervisor Hynson had not yet selected Thomas’s successor and that the veteran might be needed to serve as far into the future as the Commission’s January 5 regular meeting, the veteran was unrelenting.
“Next Monday will be my last one,” Thomas stated for a final time.