Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Augusta County shuts down Rocket Boys ... 4

Part 4: Francis Chester ... the only lawyer willing to represent VAST in Augusta County?

See part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Recently reporter Tony Gonzalez wrote in the Waynesboro News Virginian about this unfortunate case in which Augusta County has ruled against her citizens:

A rocketry club barred from holding launches on Swoope farmland has appealed to a judge to get a permit that Augusta County officials denied four months ago.

The Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 against permitting the Valley Aerospace Team launches after a stream of opponents said their farm animals were spooked by the blasts and their rural setting disrupted by increased traffic.

Within a month of the September vote, the aerospace team’s Churchville attorney, Francis Chester, had filed an appeal claiming the zoning board’s “arbitrary and capricious” vote disregarded evidence that the launch locale was safe and appropriate.

Augusta County Circuit Court Judge Victor V. Ludwig asked the county to give him records relating to the rocketry club by this week. A hearing will follow.

“It really threw us for a loop,” team President Charles Neff said of the permit denial. “Not one person ever complained to us or the landowner.”
The article is a nutshell of the events that have led up to the current time as VAST awaits a hearing from Judge Victor Ludwig.

Is there no legal representation in Augusta County for those going up against the county government except Francis Chester? (See timeline below.)

Mr. Chester, who is known as a local folk hero because of his representation pro bono of 10,500 citizens of the county in the real estate assessment case that has been ongoing since January 2009, was sanctioned and fined in December 2009 by Judge Victor Ludwig.

Thanks to meticulous record keeping, the rocketry club's website documents through their legal timeline the search for an attorney to represent VAST:
September 14 to September 25, 2009 - VAST consults with many attorneys:
a. Over thirty (30) local and non-local attorneys are contacted.

b. Several recuse themselves due to conflicts of interest with the County.

c. Some are not interested in taking on the County out of fear of repercussions.
Will others with grievances against the government be able to find representation if Francis Chester is not around?

Next: Part 5 ... Launch location in a 500-acre field in rural Augusta County

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