Brandy Station rebuffed
Preservationists lose appeal to halt Culpeper County appeal
By DONNIE JOHNSTON
Date published: 8/20/2004
A Culpeper developer has the right to build a subdivision on the Brandy Station battlefield, county officials say.
Last night, the Culpeper County Joint Board of Zoning Appeals voted unanimously to deny the Brandy Station Foundation's request that it bar Culpeper developer Clifton Schull and his Golden Oaks Land Corp. from building a two-house subdivision on 18.9 acres along State Route 685 and developing the land further.
"This is strictly a legal, not a legislative, body," said board member James Risner, who made the motion to reject the foundation's appeal of a 1989 rezoning decision by the Board of Supervisors. "We have no jurisdiction in this case and the Brandy Station Foundation [as a third party] has no standing before this board."
Culpeper lawyer Ed Gentry, who is a member of Brandy Station Foundation, argued for more than an hour that county Planner John Egerston erred in granting Shull permission to subdivide the parcel at the foot of Fleetwood Heights, epicenter of the 1863 fight. The sweeping battle between Union and Confederate forces is considered the Western Hemisphere's largest cavalry engagement.
Gentry said that the 1989 rezsoning of the property to R-1 (for 1-acre lots) was invalid because it failed to consider the property's historic nature.
Manassas lawyer John Foote, representing Golden Oaks, countered by saying that the appeals board had no authority to consider the validity of a 15-year-old zoning decision and that any challenge to the rezoning could have been made only within 30 days of the supervisors' original decision.
Foote said that to decide against the 1989 rezoning would declare the county's entire comprehensive land-use plan to be invalid.
Fred Payne, whom the board hired as a special attorney for last night's meeting, agreed. "This body does not have authority here," he advised the panel.
Referring to the passionate pleas of about a dozen speakers who asked the board to rule in favor of the Brandy Station Foundation on the basis of historic preservation, Payne added, "This body does not have the authority to consider moral issues."
Gentry, who earlier had vowed to take the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, said after the meeting that he would discuss the panel's decision with foundation board members before deciding how to proceed.
Brandy Station resident Wayne Stillwell, who sold the land to Golden Oaks, told the board that he had offered the parcel to the foundation but that negotations had proved unsuccessful. "Clifton and [Shull] came along and he offered me the money no one else did," he said.
County Attorney Dave Maddox and Egerston also told the board that after Shull met all the legal requirements, the county had no alternative but to allow him to develop the property.