Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:


Flying Circus Airshow, Inc., Owner/Applicant



January 12, 2006


Staff Lead:


Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning



Community Development


Magisterial District:


Cedar Run







A Resolution to Approve SPEX06-CR-007 and SPEX06-CR-006: Flying Circus Airshow, Inc., Cedar Run District


Topic Description: 


The applicant wishes to obtain Special Exception approval:


SPEX06-CR-007:  A Category 21 Special Exception to Allow for the Construction of New Facilities; and


SPEX06-CR-006:  A Category 9 Special Exception to Allow for Special Events.


Project Information:


Existing Conditions:


The primary purposes of this Special Exception request is to allow the construction of new facilities at the Flying Circus Aerodrome, and to clearly define present and future (proposed) activities.  The site currently contains grass runways, hangars, a gift shop and a concession stand.


The Flying Circus has an existing Special Permit that was approved in 1971.  This permit authorizes all existing air-show and related museum and gift-shop activities.  However, it does not allow for expansion or construction of new buildings or uses.  In addition, the Zoning Ordinance requirements for this use have changed since the Special Permit was approved.  The use now requires a Special Exception approval under Section 10-101 of the Zoning Ordinance. 


According to the applicant, the Flying Circus is one of the last examples of a highly popular form of entertainment of yesteryear: barnstorming.  It operates from May through October.  Vintage planes do precision aerobatic flying shows including stunt flying, wing walking, sky diving, and more.  Biplane and Piper Cub rides are available before and after the shows.  A concession stand offers snacks and a gift shop sells souvenirs.  Many of our patrons enjoy a picnic lunch in the shady grove adjacent to the spectator area before the show.


Some of the activities that occur at the site today are not covered under the original Special Permit approval.  These activities include the non-aircraft related events, such as the antique car shows, tractor shows, balloon festival, educational events, and camping.  These activities are requested to be brought into compliance through approval of the Category 9 Special Exception (for events).


Proposed New Uses & Activities:


Construction will focus on public restrooms to utilize the new wastewater treatment plant currently nearing completion, an open Pavilion for Boy Scout and community activities (such as picnics or educational tours for students, scouts, etc.), and a new gift shop to replace a temporary structure.  Then, as funding permits, a museum for the display of Flying Circus memorabilia and aircraft, and an additional six hangars for aircraft flown in the show will be constructed.  The applicant also requests an indefinite, or unconditional time-frame for this Special Exception.


The architectural style of the new buildings will be in keeping with the theme and old-style appearance of existing structures, as was done with a new snack bar constructed last year.


Crowds vary with the weather, but typically run about 250-300 attendees (60-75 vehicles) on any given Sunday for an air show, to well over a thousand attendees (250 vehicles) for special events like the 2-day Volkswagen Owner‘s Club Show, and the annual BalloonFest. 


Special Events:


The following is a list of proposed Special Events; all of which will take place in the 10 or 12-acre open areas defined on the plat as ‘Activity areas’:


BalloonFest. This is a 3-day event held early in the season, with participants arriving and setting up on Friday evening, and departing by Sunday afternoon.  This event draws the largest crowds, typically 1200 or so over three days, with many participants staying at local motels.  A similar, smaller event, a one-day hot-air balloon rally is usually held in the fall each year.


Car Club and Motorcycle shows.  Several of these are held each year during the season and are mostly one-day events held on Sundays as a special feature in addition to an air show.  Enthusiasts bring their motorcycles or antique cars out to display and compete for prizes and trophies.  At the end of the show, a motorcade occurs around the show grounds, since owners often want a picture taken of their vehicle next to one of our biplanes.


Boy Scout Camporees or Camping.  Three or four events are hosted each year, with as many as four or five hundred Scouts and Leaders camped on the property for two nights.  During this time, aircraft and crews are available to conduct Aviation Merit Badge seminars.  Except for one Camporee usually held at the end of April, all of these events occur during the regular season (May through October).  Camping may also be done by smaller scout, church or youth groups.


Tractor Shows.  These are typically a one or two-day event, with perhaps 300 spectators, and static display events.


Radio-Controlled (RC) Model Airplane Meets.  The aerodrome is a popular gathering place for RC modelers to meet, fly their planes on Saturday, and then watch the show on Sunday.  One or two of these RC meets is held each year during the season, drawing crowds of around 500 attendees.


Antique Airplane Fly-ins. One annual event per year shall be permitted for up to 50 antique planes.  Pilots must provide proof of insurance in advance to the Flying Circus Airshow, Inc., and these records shall be kept on file on site.  This event may have up to 2500 attendees.  Pilots may camp onsite.


Additional Events. These are planned and will be centered on the pavilion.  These include; church group gatherings (such as picnics or meetings); civic association and school group meetings; company picnics; educational tours (for school groups, etc.); and perhaps an occasional wedding.


Attendees at the aforementioned “additional events” would not exceed 300, with the educational tours and civic, school or church events likely to have a much smaller number of attendees.  Educational tours would be by appointment and occur between Monday and Friday to coincide with school schedules.  The other events would generally occur on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.


Air shows remain the primary focus of the Flying Circus and these additional events would occur during off-peak times so as not to disrupt the air show schedule.  At this time, the applicant does not request to schedule any of these events outside of our regular show season.


The applicant notes that in discussions with VDOT, that the existing gravel access roads and grass parking areas are considered adequate for the foreseeable future.  At some point the  traffic may eventually require a dustless surface waiver, however that is not applicable at this time.


Schedule:  Air shows run every Sunday afternoon from May through October.  The gates open at 11:00 o’clock, the show runs from 2:30 to around 4:00, and attendees can ‘hop rides’ after the show until the last happy customer is gone, usually by 7PM or so.


The Flying Circus has operated for thirty-five years, under the watchful eye of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).  The applicant states that all of their pilots are skilled veterans, most with many decades of flying experience and the requisite FAA pilot licenses and insurance covering participation at air shows.  The aircraft are maintained to rigid requirements, and are inspected by the FAA every year.  The Airshow is an all-volunteer organization; it takes about forty (40) volunteers to put on the show.  The Flying Circus also is a non-profit (501 (C) 3) organization.


Land Area, Location and Zoning:    


The property is located on the north and south sides of Route 644 at 5114 Ritchie Road.  A map of the property is shown below. 




Neighboring Zoning/Land Use:


The subject property is currently zoned RA.  It is bounded on all sides by RA property.


Action Requested of the Board of Supervisors:


Hold a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached resolution.


Planning Commission Recommendation:


On December 7, 2005 the Planning Commission held a public hearing and recommended approval, subject to a series of development conditions.


Staff Analysis

Staff and the appropriate referral agencies have reviewed this request for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Ordinance, and other relevant policies and regulations.  Findings, comments, and recommendations are summarized below. The actual responses from referral agencies are available upon request.


Emergency Services:


No exceptions noted however, should a public water supply be unavailable, this office recommends that arrangements be made to provide water for fire protection at this site, in the area of hangers, in accordance with a nationally recognized standard such as NFPA 1142 Standard on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural Fire Fighting.


Buildings or structures being used for public assemblies, hangers or educational type uses may require fire suppression and/or fire alarm systems. These requirements will depend on the building size, types of construction and occupancy load. Provide additional information in order to determine exact requirements.




The Engineering Department has reviewed the above referenced plan and has the

following comment:


BMP/SWM will be required if the development project exceeds 10,000 square feet of disturbed area.





The Warrenton Residency staff reviewed the Special Exception and has the following comment:


The existing entrances are not in conformance with the current Minimum Standard of Entrances to State Highways for a commercial entrance. It is recommended that the entrances be widened to accommodate two-way traffic. In addition, the tree line along the fence at both entrances is limiting the sight distance pulling out of both of the entrances. The trees/brush should be cleared at both entrances to achieve the required 500 feet of sight distance in both directions.


Zoning Comments:


The Zoning office provided the following comments:


1.            The proposed building identified as hanger/museum is located 100 feet from the property line. A setback of 200 feet is required for all structures used for airplanes. (Zoning Ordinance Section 5-2101.4)


2.              Parking is shown located within a gas line easement. It is not known whether the gas company will allow parking in this easement. The Board may wish to consider this issue.  A Site Plan can not be approved with the parking located within the easement until authorization has been provided, in writing, from the gas company.


Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Fauquier County Department of Community Development

Virginia Department of Health





1.                  Statement of Justification

2.                  Special Exception Plat