Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:


Whitman’s Holdings, Owner

Jackie L. George, Applicant



November 10, 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 Continued Operation of a Privately Owned, Public Use Airport


Topic Description: 


The applicant seeks to obtain a Category 21 Special Exception amendment to allow for continued operation of a privately owned, public use airport.  This application seeks renewal and amendment of a previously approved Special Exception and associated Conditions (SE99-CR-27, approved on 12/6/99).  Along with the renewal, the applicant also requests changes to conditions 13 and 14 which are stated in their approved form below:


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.


The applicant is requesting changes to the referenced Conditions as follows:


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 October 13, 2005, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on this item and postponed action for 30 days, per the applicant’s request.  This action provided time for the applicant to provide the Board of Supervisors with the requested insurance policies of all pilots who store airplanes at the site.  The applicant noted that these policies are collected annually in October and can be provided in time for the November meeting.  In addition, the applicant and staff met with Chairman Graham (Cedar Run Magisterial District) to discuss further project refinements.


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) Conditions.  Since Planning Commission action, 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 recommends an additional Condition to allow for this annual event.


Zoning staff recently received many complaints from adjacent residences about the hours of operation of the ultralight planes.  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. 


Staff has reviewed the application for consistency with Zoning 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 conditions.  As recommended, the proposed use would run with the land.  However, a renewal date of 5 years has been 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.




Summary and Recommendations:


Staff notes the Planning Commission has recommended approval, subject to a series of 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.  Staff and the applicant have met with Chairman Graham to discuss this issue.  Staff has added the 5-year time limit back into the Conditions, subsequent to this meeting.  In addition, further refinement may be needed before this application is ready for action.  Additional postponement time is recommended.


As stated in the report, staff was informed 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 occurs each fall during the month of October.  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, the proposal and added Condition #23 suggested language is:


Allow for one (1) annual advertised open house per calendar year.  This event shall be free of charge and shall be limited to 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



Special Exception Plat