"Not in my backyard."
That's the mindset of some in western Augusta County even if the backyard consists of hundreds of acres of land. They just don't want the Valley AeroSpace Club to participate in rocket launches for reasons that have been shot down by many who also live in the area.
The trouble began in July 2009 when Augusta County notified land owner Bill Croft that a Special Use Permit (SUP) was necessary to continue model rocket launches on his 500-acre property in Swoope. A September Board of Zoning Appeals hearing denied the SUP leading to an appeal by the rocketry club.
VAST's president Chuck Neff has kept an updated legal time line at the VAST website.
The club was back in Augusta County court yesterday in a continuation of their appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals in obtaining an SUP that was deemed "only routine" when an anonymous complaint was received concerning the family-friendly activity. Not one person ever complained to VAST or the landowner. However, the News Virginian reported the following:
Ten people spoke against the permit in September and Jeanne Hoffman, who lives near the launches, presented a petition of 100 names. Informed of the team’s appeal, Hoffman said she still feels their activities are not compatible to the agricultural area.If not on 500 acres of land in the middle of a sparsely-populated area, then where?
“I think it’s a great thing, but this is not the place to do it,” she said.
In this rural area there is a need for activities for young people who often say they have nothing to do. "Cruisers" are discouraged from congregating in parking lots. Meth and drugs and gang related activities present concerns for law enforcement authorities as well as drunken parties with stabbings like the one reported by the Waynesboro News Virginian earlier this year.
The latest from yesterday's hearing can be read at the News Virginian, all the background can be read in a 14-part SWAC Girl series, and the legal time line kept by Chuck Neff can be found at the VAST website.
On online petition is available to support the VAST Rocket Boys.