Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:


Whitman’s Holdings, Owner

Jackie L. George, Applicant



October 13, 2005


Staff Lead:


Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning



Community Development


Magisterial District:


Cedar Run






A Resolution to Approve Whitman’s Airstrip, SPEX05-CR-033: A Category 21 Special Exception to Allow for the Continued Operation of a Privately Owned, Public-Use Airport



Topic Description: 


The applicant seeks to obtain Category 21 Special Exception amendment approval to allow for continued operation of a privately owned, public use airport.  This application seeks renewal and amendment of a previously approved Special Exception (SE99-CR-27, approved on 12/6/99), which is subject to the approved Special Exception conditions.  This includes conditions which state:


13.        This special exception is granted for five (5) years.


14.        This special exception approval is solely for the Whitman family and heirs; it does not follow with the transfer or selling of the land.


With this Special Exception renewal, the applicant has also requested the following changes to amend the previously approved Special Exception Conditions:


Amend Condition #13 from a 5-year Special Exception renewal to permanent status.  The applicant indicates that the 5-year permit discourages the investment of funds and improvements of the airport facilities.  Permanent status would allow opportunity for improving the facilities.


Amend Condition #14 to allow the airstrip to be sold to a private individual instead of solely for the Whitman family and heirs.  The applicant indicates that this amendment would provide incentive to build and improve the facility and would allow for a return on the investment.


Project Update:


On August 25, 2005, the Planning Commission forwarded this item to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of approval; subject to a series of twenty-one (21) Special Exception conditions.  However, it has come to staff’s attention that the airstrip also has an annual open house event for the public.  It is a free event to promote the airport.  Staff suggests an additional condition to allow for this annual event.


Zoning staff recently received many complaints about the hours of operation of the ultalight planes from adjacent residences.  Dates and times have been documented by the residents.  Since the complaint times are after normal business hours, these violations have not been confirmed directly by staff.  That condition is underlined and in italics (condition #22).


Staff has reviewed the application for consistency with Ordinance standards and found it to be satisfactory.  Any change in scale or uses at the site will require a Special Exception Amendment.


Project Background:


Whitman’s Airstrip has been in operation for approximately fifty (50) years.  According to the applicant the airstrip has had no fatalities or accidents during this time.  The airstrip is operational from sunrise to sunset, seven (7) days per week.  It is used for small general aviation and light aircraft only.  The Department of Homeland Security can utilize the airstrip for training and emergency purposes.  Hangar space is restricted to a maximum of twenty (20) renters.


Whitman’s Airstrip contains a grass runway that is approximately 2700 feet long and seventy (70) feet wide.  All airstrip activities are located out of the 100-year floodplain on the property.  The previously approved Special Exception conditions require specific landing patterns and other operational protocol for the facility and its users. 


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:


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


Planning Commission Recommendation:


On August 25, 2005 the Planning Commission recommended approval of this item, subject to 21 conditions.  Their recommendations make the proposed use run with the land, and there is now no renewal date recommended.


Financial Impact Analysis:




Land Area, Location and Zoning:    


The 145-acre property is located at 2102 Sowego Road (Route 611), and is zoned Rural Agricultural (RA).  The property does contain 100-year floodplain, as reflected below.





Neighboring Zoning/Land Use:


The property is bounded on all sides by RA zoned parcels.  Consistent with this zoning category, neighboring properties have agriculture and forestry as the predominant uses, or large lot type residential development exists.


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 letters and responses are available upon request.


The applicant has addressed the referral agency comments and provided the requested information.  


Zoning Considerations:


Zoning prepared the following comments:


1.                     Provide the following information in order for staff to determine compliance with the following standards:


A.                 Evidence that the proposed facility meets the standards and requirements imposed by such agencies as the Federal Aviation Administration and all other federal, state or local statutes, ordinances, rules or regulations applicable thereto.


B.                 A statement detailing all noise abatement procedures, methods and devices that are or will be employed in the operation of the facility and sufficient analysis to indicate what adjoining lands are impacted by the anticipated noise.


2.                     Prior to land disturbance for any new construction or alterations of any type would require site plan approved.  A site plan consistent with the approved Special Exception, provisions of Article 12 of the Fauquier County Zoning Ordinance and the bulk regulations for the underlying RA zoning district must be approved prior to obtaining building and zoning permits.


County Engineer


The Engineering Department has reviewed the plan and has no comments.


Virginia Department of Transportation:


The Warrenton Residency staff reviewed the above referenced Special Exception dated February 25, 2005, and has the following comments:


1.                  Provide information on the number of vehicles using the entrance.


2.                  The entrance does not appear to be in conformance with our current standards for a commercial entrance in accordance with the Minimum Standard of Entrances to State Highways.


Summary and Recommendations:


Staff notes the Planning Commission has recommended approval, subject to a series of 21 conditions.  A resolution of approval has been prepared to that effect.  However, since the Planning Commission meeting in August, Zoning staff has received many complaints from adjacent residents regarding violations of flying hours.


In addition, it has also come to light that the applicant holds a public open house for the airstrip each year.  This annual even requires a permit.    Staff has proposed an addition to the recommended conditions, if the Board concurs, to allow for this event.  The annual open house is coming up this October 15, 2005.  If action on this item is not taken at this meeting, and the open house takes place, it will be in violation of the Zoning Ordinance.  All of the advertised events at the open house are free and related to the airstrip, with the exception of go-cart rides.  As recommended, condition #22 suggested language is:


Allow for one (1) annual advertised open house per calendar year.  This event shall be free of charge and shall include aviation/airport themed activities, food and go-cart rides.  A designated parking area will be clearly identified for visitors.


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

Fauquier County Department of Community Development




1.      Statement of Justification

2.      Special Exception Plat