Saturday, February 06, 2010

Augusta County shuts down Rocket Boys ... 10

Part 10: VAST is denied Special Use Permit by BZA

See part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

The rocketry club, Valley Aerospace Team (VAST), was shut down in the summer of 2009 by an anonymous complaint but Augusta County assured them it was just a formality to apply for a Special Use Permit.

VAST's board of directors put together presentations and information about the safe, family-oriented, educational activity of rocket launchings and provided photos of the rural, almost isolated location where the launches took place. On September 3, 2009, adult advisors and board members made a presentation before the Board of Zoning Appeals at the Augusta Government Center.

After two-and-a-half hours in the BZA hearing, VAST was denied their Special Use Permit in a decision that took two minutes. From VAST's timeline we learn that the BZA's decision was quick ... was it predetermined? The timeline picks up after VAST had completed their presentation:
g. The acting BZA chairman, Mr. Callison (chairman was absent), closes the public portion of the meeting and the four (4) Board members openly discuss it among themselves.
i. Interestingly, it is done right in front of the public attendees with the microphones open.

ii. As soon as the meeting is closed, the overall Board's tone changes from fascination about the hobby to near contempt.

iii. After less than a two (2) minute dialogue where no substantiated zoning interests are addressed, Mr. Coyner makes a motion to deny the permit.

iv. It is seconded by Ms. Brown, voted on, and is carried out with a 3 to 1 result.

v. Mr. Callison, Mr. Coyner, and Ms. Brown vote against the permit while Mr. Swortzel votes in favor.

vi. After over 2-1/2 hours, VAST's permit fate is decided in less than two (2) minutes.
h. The interest the Board showed during VAST's presentation appears to have been just a facade.

i. Although no rationale for the denial is given, it appears to be based on the general attitude by a majority of the BZA members that our infrequent activity is not right for the area.

j. The decision should have been based on facts relating to applicable zoning interests rather than on the opinions, fears, desires, speculations, and conjectures expressed by those in opposition.
Scientists use logic and facts to plot a course. Something in the SUP denial did not add up.

Next -- Part 11: Augusta County refuses to provide tapes of BZA hearing

No comments: