Saturday, February 06, 2010

Augusta County shuts down Rocket Boys ... 11

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

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.
a. The County denies VAST access to the tapes saying they're not for public use.

b. The meeting transcripts are not available yet due to the responsible staff member being on vacation.
14. September 12, 2009 - VAST receives an official SUP Denial Letter from County by mail.
a. No explanation for the denial is given.

b. VAST is notified of the thirty (30) day appeal deadline, which corresponds to October 2, 2009.
15. September 12, 2009 - VAST holds a membership meeting to discuss options.
a. The Pros and Cons of appealing the BZA decision are discussed.

b. All members present vote unanimously to move forward with appeal process.

c. A VAST Legal Fund collection is authorized and initiated.
16. September 18, 2009 - VAST contacts the County again regarding the BZA meeting transcripts.
a. Transcripts are still not available due to the vacationing staff member.

b. VAST asks how an appeal assessment is expected to be made without any official rationale from the BZA for their decision.
17. 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.

d. Numerous require hefty retainers and/or charge excessive hourly fees.

e. Others simply do not have experience with land use law.
18. September 28, 2009 - VAST retains a local attorney, Mr. Francis Chester of Churchville, Virginia.
Is Francis Chester the only attorney willing to defend local citizens in cases against Augusta County?

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

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