See part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
After Augusta County's Board of Zoning Appeals voted against providing the never-before-mentioned Special Use Permit, suggested by the county as "just a formality," to VAST, the club set about to try and understand why the denial.
As mentioned before, scientists take meticulous notes. A week after the hearing, VAST requested a copy of the audio tapes recorded during the BZA meeting. They were denied access to the tapes because, according to VAST's notes, the tapes were not for public use. A transcript of the meeting was not available because the staff member reponsible for that was on vacation. We pick up VAST's legal timeline:
13. September 9, 2009 - VAST requests a copy of the audio tapes recorded during the BZA meeting.Is Francis Chester the only attorney willing to defend local citizens in cases against Augusta County?a. The County denies VAST access to the tapes saying they're not for public use.14. September 12, 2009 - VAST receives an official SUP Denial Letter from County by mail.
b. The meeting transcripts are not available yet due to the responsible staff member being on vacation.a. No explanation for the denial is given.15. September 12, 2009 - VAST holds a membership meeting to discuss options.
b. VAST is notified of the thirty (30) day appeal deadline, which corresponds to October 2, 2009.a. The Pros and Cons of appealing the BZA decision are discussed.16. September 18, 2009 - VAST contacts the County again regarding the BZA meeting transcripts.
b. All members present vote unanimously to move forward with appeal process.
c. A VAST Legal Fund collection is authorized and initiated.a. Transcripts are still not available due to the vacationing staff member.17. September 14 to September 25, 2009 - VAST consults with many attorneys.
b. VAST asks how an appeal assessment is expected to be made without any official rationale from the BZA for their decision.a. Over thirty (30) local and non-local attorneys are contacted.18. September 28, 2009 - VAST retains a local attorney, Mr. Francis Chester of Churchville, Virginia.
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.
d. Numerous require hefty retainers and/or charge excessive hourly fees.
e. Others simply do not have experience with land use law.
The Rocket Boys were ready to go to court to stand up to what they felt was an unjust denial of their request to continue launching rockets in rural western Augusta County with permission from the landowner on 500 acres of land.
However, they were having difficulty obtaining necessary documentation from Augusta County, documentation that was necessary in order to make the appeal process that had a 30-day deadline imposed by the county. As of September 18, transcripts of the September 3rd BZA hearing were still not available to VAST.
Next -- Part 12: The legal case begins