County clarifies statements from letter to the editor
Percy Ashcraft, County Administrator firstname.lastname@example.org (804) 633-5380
On July 26, 2010, the County Administrator of Caroline County issued the following statement in response to a letter to the editor of the Caroline Progress from a plaintiff currently suing the County over the Board’s approval, on November 13, 2008, of a special exception permit for a sand and gravel extraction operation on Route 17. The letter contains a number of inaccuracies and factual mischaracterizations which the County believes should be addressed.
As correctly noted by the Caroline Progress, the author of the letter (along with his wife, and ten other individuals) sued the County on December 15, 2008, related to the Board’s approval of a special use permit for a sand and gravel extraction operation on Route 17. Prior to its being approved, the request was analyzed by County staff and was determined to be in conformance with the County Zoning Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan. The request had also been recommended for approval by the Caroline County Planning Commission. During the public hearing before the Board, many County residents spoke for and against the request. After full consideration of the application, the Board voted 3-2 to approve the permit request. The statements of those residents, as well as the Board’s comments, are reflected in the minutes of those meetings which are publically available.
After the permit was approved, Mr. Shelton and the other plaintiffs sued the County in Circuit Court seeking to have the permit declared invalid. On April 28, 2010, the Court dismissed much of the plaintiffs’ case. In doing so, however, the Court indicated that it believed there may have been a procedural error in the Board’s approval of the permit. While the County did not agree that an error had been made, on June 8, 2010, the Board adopted a resolution seeking to address the error articulated by the Court. The resolution was duly adopted in an open meeting as required by the Freedom of Information Act, and like many other items of County business, was initially included on the County’s Consent Agenda. It was the County’s hope that by adopting the resolution, the Court would then rule on the remaining issues in the Plaintiffs’ complaint and that the case could be resolved without its having to go to trial, thus saving the County additional litigation costs and expenses. Importantly, the Resolution was not a reconsideration of the merits of the underlying use permit. It was an effort to address a procedural issue noted by the Court with the goal of avoiding continued litigation over procedures, and not focused on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims. Thus, any Board member voting for the Resolution was not changing his position on the underlying permit. Mr. Thomas chose to abstain from voting on the Resolution because he believed it was appropriate for him to do so and he was not precluded from doing so under Virginia law; nor was he legally required to explain his reasons for doing so.
The circumstances of the return of Mr. Snead’s contribution to the County’s Summer Jobs Program has previously been reported in the Caroline Progress. All documents requested by the Caroline Progress and/or counsel for the plaintiffs under the Freedom of Information Act have been provided. The Plaintiffs’ lawsuit against the County remains pending. In addition, the Plaintiffs have now sued the County over the Board’s adoption of the Resolution – further hindering the Board’s continued efforts to reduce litigation costs related to the Plaintiffs’ claims and to conserve County funds.