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Board of Supervisors Recap 10/23/19 Meeting
The Board approved a resolution for an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map along Buffalo Gap Highway in Swoope (Pastures District). The amendment changes the status of Gap Valley Farm property from low density residential to urban open space to allow for a conservation easement.
The Board approved an ordinance amendment for Article XIV pertaining to the Manufactured Home Subdivision District in Stuarts Draft which will allow for lot owners in this community to replace a manufactured home with a modular or stick built single family dwelling.
The Board approved the amended proffered conditions for property owned by VR Associates near the intersection of Route 11 and Weyers Cave Road in the North River District. The amended proffer requires conditions, such as a buffer zone, privacy fencing, and conditions on commercial entrances, connectivity, and access between the business portion of the property and the surrounding residential area, should development occur.
After hearing many citizens who were for and against the use of air cannons, the Board voted to table an amendment to the noise control ordinance which specifies the use of air cannons for repelling birds as being a violation of the article. Some of the comments presented were as follows:
Mr. Clay Trainum is a heritage breed pork farmer in the Wayne district. The USDA suggested either poison or air cannons to get rid of starlings which were infecting his livestock. His farm has been using propane cannons with great success and no complaint from his neighbors. His use is very seasonal and for a limited time and is 80 decibels maximum.
Luke Trainum is the son of Clay Trainum and is part of the farm’s management. He reiterated that they only have a few options to handle starling problem and he asks the Board to respect a community built on agriculture. He informed that an 85-decibel cannon aligns with OSHA regulations.
John Sills’ home is one mile from the vineyard in Swoope where the problem is occurring. He stated that the noise is a constant aggravation, that one can hear the noise from inside the house, and that it is loud outside, running 14 hours per day, 6 am- 8 pm, with 1 boom every 10 seconds, continuous, all day, seven days per week.
James Simmons represents the vineyard in Swoope. He explained that they used five cannons that are unable to be set so they go off at same time. No one reached out to the vineyard from the County. Ms. Carter came out to a roadway near the vineyard and measured 80 decibels, which is within OSHA guidelines. Joel Wilson (a neighbor) is understanding about the cannons: the Boy Scouts of America Camp was not bothered. They made adjustments when they learned of complaints, and thought the matter was solved when they stopped hearing complaints. Tina Wiseman is another neighbor with no complaints. Their cannons are 130-decibels maximum and are important to the success of the vineyard. Implementing netting would cost the vineyard $19,000 just for materials, it is labor intensive to install and only lasts three years. Being in an agricultural district, they must be allowed to protect their crop. The three complaints they had were responded to by the owner; they made adjustments when complaints occurred. When they didn’t hear anything, they assumed all was well until they received a certified letter with 40 signatures.
John-Mark Burnett works at the vineyard. A deputy was the first person he talked to about the cannon; the deputy seemed to understand the need for it. He moved the cannons four times during the firing period. There was one mistake with a timer (going off in middle of night), but it was fixed the next day. No one came by to talk to them about it. He feels they do not pose a safety or health threat. He tried to be respectful about positioning the cannons. He explained that the previous year, they started to investigate methods due to loss of crops and that they lost a third of the crop. This year, they lost only a fraction of that and in the areas where cannons were not present, they lost more crops.
Leah Rhodes is a neighbor of the vineyard. They started with the cannons in August and continued through the first week of October. They are destructive and greatly impacted her family’s quality of life. They dreaded the noises, couldn’t go outside, and her children flinched at the noise. She called Mr. McGinnis when they went off all night and felt that they had a dismissive attitude towards her and her family. She left eight voice mails in row and never received a response. She feels her only choice is to move but that is difficult to do.
Dwight Wood represents 40 residents of Swoope. The cannons went off from August – October. He personally spoke with Mr. McGinnis and tried to explain the issues. He is a rancher and farmer and understands protecting crops. He counted twelve bursts / minute, from daylight to dark, which equates in his estimation to 720 bursts, and 9000 bursts total from all five cannons. There are other viable options for them to deter wildlife. He uses and develops horses, and the noises affected his horses greatly. He had to bring in horses everyday, that had previously had free range of his ranch, and turn them out at night. He asked people who are supporting his view to stand. Mr. Wells asked if there is any way to achieve compromise. Mr. Wood did not know and suggested netting since other vineyards use it successfully,
Bobby Whitescarver sent a certified letter to Mr. McGinnis and asked why the vineyard didn’t let residents know. The noises happen all day long, it’s very loud, and he objects to the use of cannons.
Mr. Richard Huttinger was not able to use his bedroom or living room; he lives across the street from the vineyard and the noise is intolerable and poses a health issue.
Brandon Adams is from Crimora and supports farmers. He feels this amendment would be unfair to all farmers in the whole county who are using cannons.
Clay Trainum asked that the Board be more flexible towards his livelihood and perhaps the frequency and duration can be worked out.
John Fetchko [sp] is an employee of Mr. McGinnis and comes from farmers from Ohio. Air cannons are in line with the noise ordinance as it stands.
Leah Rhodes said that the cannons are much louder than a power drill (mentioned by Mr. Fetchko [sp]) and that the noise reverberates off the mountains around her house.
Mr. Huttinger said that 120 -130 decibels can be heard two miles away. It is painful and annoying to people.
Mr. Whitescarver added that no one on board would stand it if they heard it firsthand.
Mr. Keith McGinnis from Charlottesville asked the Board to go hear it for themselves.
Mr. James Simmons clarified that two other neighbors who don’t have a business relationship with Mr. McGinnis are accepting of the cannon use.
Mr. Wood added that one of the neighbors [Mr. Simmons mentioned] is the daughter of the tenant (Wilson).
Luke Trainum said that maybe this issue is specific to Swoope.
MATTERS BY THE PUBLIC
Mr. Steve Morris said that Augusta County should not spend $70 million on the courthouse. The number one priority should be safety. He spoke of a rumor that the former Fire Chief was given $100,000 in settlement when he left the county. The Middle River jail is unsafe and he suggested to build a dormitory and urged the Board to use resources to hire ten more fire-rescue personnel.
Mr. Tracy Pyles supported the tabling of the air cannon discussion but finds that the Board is dismissive of the public. Not asking the public for input on the courthouse is disrespectful and dismissive of citizens. Increasing taxes is impacting everyone, especially senior citizens. He disputes what the people really voted for when they were voting on the courthouse. Organizations with hidden interests and influence helped fund the campaign to vote ‘no’ on the courthouse. Not speaking with Staunton about tearing down the Augusta property is wrong, Staunton has said they will not allow this. He is concerned about spending money on Beverley Manor Elementary School for a temporary courthouse. He is also concerned about building the new courthouse over a flood plain. He asks the Board not to vote before a new board is in place.
Mr. Max Quillen represents a plant nursery in Stuarts Draft. At no time during the Stuart’s Draft small area plan process were landowners consulted on how they would like to be able to use their land. He asked the Board to rethink the way comprehensive and small area plans are developed and is asking the Board to not vote for the plan and to allow a process that includes landowners.
The Board voted to authorize the creation of a Regional Joint Complete-Count Committee with Staunton and Waynesboro.
The Board voted to fund replacement of an ambulance for Fire-Rescue for $192,947.
The Board voted to fund water usage of the Greenville Ball Fields out of the Riverheads Parks and Rec infrastructure account for $917.70.
The draft of the Stuarts Draft Small Area Plan created by the advisory committee was presented. The Board voted to move forward with the plan. Public hearings will most likely occur in November.
MATTERS BY THE BOARD
Mr. Wells stated that he brought back good information from the CSPDC (Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission) meeting that he attended.
Ms. Carter mentioned that the CAPSAW (Community Action Partnership of Staunton, Augusta and Waynesboro) accreditation process went through with flying colors so the investment in the agency is well-spent. Cannons for the Trainum family is very different from the situation in Swoope. She cited her research on the adverse health effects of cannons. Her experience is first hand and it was loud; it is a serious situation for those residents.
Mr. Coleman agreed that the cannon situation is a serious matter and would like to find a way to compromise. This is an issue for the whole county. He called for help in finding ways to engage the public.
Mr. Shull said that the Board is trying to make decisions for the best for all citizens.
MATTERS BY STAFF
Mr. Fitzgerald commented on the Jail Authority Board which is developing a regional, community-based correctional plan for the Middle River Regional Jail. By state law, they must do so before any expansion or construction can occur. They are looking at a dormitory with a community-based approach; these plans will then go to the Department of Justice for review and onto the next general Assembly for funding.
He will be attending a transportation meeting on Monday, October 28 in Harrisonburg.