Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Francis G. Fortin, Jr. (Owner)
Unisys (Applicant)


February 18, 2010


Staff Lead: 
Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning

Community Development


Magisterial District:
Cedar Run




A Resolution to Approve SPEX10-CR-015 -  Francis G. Fortin, Jr. (Owner) / Unisys (Applicant) – Government Test Lane Facility at Hartwood Airport – Cedar Run District


Topic Description:  

The applicant wishes to obtain a Category 17 Special Exception to allow for a General Industrial use in the Rural Agricultural (RA) district on more than one (1) acre when reusing legally existing airport facilities.

The proposed testing facility is classified as a General Industrial use under the Zoning Ordinance.  The use is not currently allowed in the RA zoning district as more than one acre is being utilized, but the Board of Supervisors initiated a Zoning Ordinance text amendment (to Sections 3-317 and 5-1700) to allow the use in the RA zoning district with approval of a special exception and site plan.  The Board initiated the text amendment on December 10, 2009; and the Planning Commission recommended approval of the text amendment on January 28, 2010.  In order for this special exception use to be approved, the text amendment must first be approved.

Project Information:

Assuming the aforementioned text amendment is approved, a special exception is required to expand the existing government testing facility at the Hartwood Airport.  The Stafford and Fauquier County line bisects the airport; both counties require similar permitting processes to allow for this use.  The requested expansion of the use seeks the following changes on the Fauquier County side of the property:

a)      pave a portion of the existing east-west runway (currently a grass runway) and relocate the low speed vehicle testing to that area;

b)      widen the north-south runway (currently paved) to accommodate four lanes of traffic (two 12-foot lanes and two 14-foot lanes) for high speed vehicle testing, up to 65 mph;

c)      build a gantry to hold equipment and lighting on the north end of the runway and relocate the existing gantry to east-west runway;

d)     develop a traffic calming area with speed bumps, signs, etc. at each of the gantry areas; and

e)      create a simulated border crossing on the east-west runway.

The hours of operation will generally be 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  Limited testing may occur outside of those hours, for example to test performance of technologies during nighttime hours.  It is estimated testing will take place between 5 and 8 days per month.  During these operations, up to 18 people may be on-site – mainly Federal Government civilian employees and contractors.  There will also be an employee on-site 24 hours per day to provide security.

Access to the project is via the existing airport entrance.  It is located on a private drive (Dophi Road) off Route 614 (Cropp Road) in Stafford County.  No additional new entrances are proposed to serve the project.  The project has no frontage along Cropp Road.  According to the Statement of Justification, the proposed operation will generate approximately 468 vehicle trips per month on Cropp Road. 

The consultants involved with the testing (approximately 18 people) will bring vehicles to the site. Some of them will be parked in front of the hangar office area and other vehicles will be involved in testing operations.  No new parking is proposed.  The existing parking is more than adequate for the proposed use.

The expansion will allow for a full mock-up of an existing Land Border Port of Entry between the United States and Mexico to test current and developing technologies (such as license plate readers, radio frequency identification and radioactive portal monitors).  It will also help develop a new automated process for vehicles departing the United States, along with establishing new standard operating procedures to be used by Federal Law Enforcement Officers.

Site History:

Hartwood Airport has been in service since October 1969, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  On September 13, 2007 an Administrative Permit was approved to allow Electronic Data Systems (EDS) to establish a test facility for electronic sensors utilizing the existing runways at Hartwood Airport approximately one day each month.  Temporary toll booth type units and a trailer were approved in conjunction with the testing.

Testing at the site involved driving a vehicle down the existing runway at varying speeds up to 60 mph.  The vehicles then passed through a canopy-type structure (toll booth) equipped to read a variety of identifying information from the vehicles.  The purpose was to perform testing on different types of sensor technology.  No planes can land at the airport with the gantry and equipment in place.  Based on information published by the FAA, Hartwood Airport is “Closed Indefinitely.”  


Land Area, Location and Zoning:  

The subject properties are located on the west side of Elk Ridge Road/Cropp Road (Route 614) and are zoned RA/Rural Agriculture.  Consistent with the RA zoning category, this property is located in a district that contains the areas where agriculture and forestry are the predominant uses or where significant agricultural lands or large lot type residential development exists.

The original airport property consisted of five parcels in Fauquier County and multiple parcels in Stafford County.  This included the subject parcels that are split between both counties.  The county line bisects the main north-south runway.

The two parcels are PIN 7836-61-5517-000 (60 acres) and 7836-60-6238-000 (25 acres).  A map of the properties is shown below. 


 Neighboring Zoning/Land Use:

The property is bound by RA zoned land; the Comprehensive Plan designates this area for rural use.  The parcels that are in Stafford County are also agriculturally zoned.

Site Suitability/Environment:

Wetlands have been flagged upstream and downstream of the two existing culverts in the project area on the Stafford County side of the project.  These two culverts are located approximately 20 feet below the road surface in a ravine.  No impacts are proposed to the culverts, wetlands, or ravine.  All work locations (land disturbance) will be at the existing grade and confined to the areas above and outside the tops of banks.


Staff Analysis:

General standards for all Special Exceptions (Zoning Ordinance Section 5-006) require that the proposed use will not adversely affect the use or development of neighboring properties, will not conflict with existing traffic, and other such criteria.  In this case, the proposed Government Test Lane Facility will not cause degradation of the surrounding area or add significant traffic.

Staff Review Agency Comments:

Staff and 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. Following each comment is a staff note in italics stating how the comment has been addressed.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)

The Warrenton Residency staff reviewed the above referenced special exception.  This facility is apparently accessed through Stafford County over which the Warrenton VDOT office does not have jurisdiction.  The entrance has not been shown on the application.

Staff is working with Stafford County staff and will provide an update when comments are received from their VDOT representative.

Emergency Services

This office does not oppose the special exception request.  No exceptions noted at this time.


  1. The subject property is zoned RA/Rural Agriculture.  The proposed testing facility is classified as a general industrial use under the Zoning Ordinance.  The use is not currently allowed in the RA zoning district as more than one acre is being utilized, but the Board of Supervisors initiated a text amendment to allow the use in the RA with approval of a site plan and special exception.  The Board initiated the text amendment on December 10, 2009; in order for this use to be finally approved, the text amendment must first be approved.

The Special Exception and text amendment will be considered at the Board of Supervisors’ February 18, 2010 meeting.  The Board will consider the text amendment first. 

  1. The following Zoning Ordinance standards are applicable to the proposed open space reduction:

a.       5-006 General Standards for all Special Exceptions and Special Permits

The applicant has met the standards set forth; see the aforementioned Special Exception Analysis section.

b.      5-1701.1 Standards for General Industrial Use.  Note, these are the standards currently proposed in the text amendment for this use.   These standards could change as the text amendment is processed through the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

                                    Additional Standards for Industrial Use Described in Paragraph 3-317.2 (more than one acre used), in Rural Zoning Districts

1.   This use shall only be authorized in the RA district for redevelopment of properties previously approved by the County through special exception for airport use.  Two such properties exist in the County: Hartwood Airport and the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport (which is primarily zoned Industrial).  

2.   The Board may only approve such use upon a finding that the activity associated with the proposed industrial use is no more impactive to the surrounding area than was the prior airport use.

3.   All activities shall be entirely screened from view from streets and adjoining properties.

4.   Contractor’s Storage Yards shall not be allowed.

At the time of preparation of this report, the applicant has met the draft standards for the use. The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will have to make a determination that the testing activity proposed is no more impactive to the surrounding area than was the prior airport use.

  1. It appears that a portion of the use may also be located on PIN #7836-70-3951; if this is the case, that parcel must be included in the Special Exception application.  Also, any parcel providing access to the site must be included; staff was unable to tell where access occurred from the submission materials or aerial photographs.

The applicant’s representative has indicated that they will not be using a portion of PIN #7836-70-3951. The entrance to the site is located in Stafford County and it is the same entrance used for the airport and for the previous government testing at this location. 


The Environmental Division has reviewed the plans for the above referenced project.  The following issues are to be addressed prior to plan approval.

Code Compliance:

1.      An approved method of sewage disposal is required where people are employed or congregate (Fauquier County Code Sec 17-2).  Applicant shall state means of sewage disposal for employees and visitors at the site.

2.      Applicant shall provide a statement from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) indicating that any existing septic drainfield is suitable for the proposed use (Zoning Ordinance 5-011).

The applicant is working with the VDH to obtain a statement that shows the existing drainfield is adequate and meets current standards.  In the meantime, a condition has been drafted to address this issue.


1.      Applicant does not indicate if land disturbance or increase in impervious cover will be required for the use.  If greater than 10,000 sq. ft. of land disturbance is necessary, then an E&S plan and land disturbing permit shall be required.  If greater than 10,000 sq. ft. is converted to impervious land cover, stormwater management shall be required.

Information for the applicant.

2.      Soil map unit 13B may contain hydric soil inclusions, indicating the possible presence of jurisdictional wetlands.  If land disturbance is to occur in soil map unit 13B, a jurisdictional determination will be required prior to land disturbance.

The applicant has conducted a Jurisdictional Determination and intends to avoid the wetlands located on the property during construction.

3.      Soils are somewhat to very limited for septic drainfields, roads and buildings.  Limitations include slow percolation rate, shrink-swell potential and low strength.

Information for the applicant.


Future Actions:

§  Preliminary Soil Report if a major site plan is required.

§  Geotechnical Investigation if building permits are required.

§  Jurisdictional Determination if land disturbance is required in areas mapped 13B.

Information for the applicant.  Note – a Major Site Plan is required.

Planning Commission Summary and Action of January 28, 2010:

On January 28, 2010, the Planning Commission held a work session and conducted a public hearing on the proposed Special Exception.  No members of the public spoke at the hearing; the applicant’s representative provided comments.

The Planning Commission forwarded a unanimous recommendation of approval, subject to a series of Special Exception conditions, to the Board of Supervisors.

Summary and Recommendations:

Staff has been in coordination with Stafford County and worked with their staff so that the conditions for the Special Exception mesh with Stafford’s Conditional Use Permit.

Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

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


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


Fauquier County Department of Community Development
Virginia Department of Health
Stafford County
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency


1.    Statement of Justification

2.    Special Exception Plat

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