Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:


Whitmanís Holdings, Owner

Jackie L. George, Applicant



December 8, 2005


Staff Lead:


Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning



Community Development


Magisterial District:


Cedar Run







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


Topic Description:  


This application seeks renewal and amendment of a previously approved Special Exception (SE99-CR-27, approved on 12/6/99), for continued operation of a privately owned, public-use airport.


The following two (2) conditions are the basis of the amendment request:


1.               This Special Exception is granted for five (5) years.


2.               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 requests the following changes to the aforementioned conditions:


Change condition #1 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.


Change condition #2 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 November 10, 2005, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on this item.  The majority of the speakers for this item were not residents of Fauquier County.  In addition, the applicant has not provided the requested insurance papers for the pilots, as requested in October.  Subsequent to the November public hearing, Chairman Graham has directed staff to prepare a resolution of denial for this item.


On October 13, 2005 the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on this item.  The application was postponed for 30 days, per the applicantís request, to address a Board request.  In particular, the Board of Supervisors requested the insurance policies of all pilots who store airplanes at the site.  The applicant noted that these policies are collected annually in October.  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) Special Exception conditions.  This included removal of the 5-year renewal, as requested by the applicant, and a condition to allow for an annual (free) open house event for the public.


Zoning staff recently received many complaints about the hours of operation of the ultralight 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. 


Project Background:


Whitmanís 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.


Whitmanís 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.


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 that the Planning Commission recommended approval of this item, subject to a series of conditions.  However, since the Planning Commission meeting in August, Zoning staff has received many complaints from adjacent residents regarding violations of flying hours and flight patterns.  Staff and the applicant have met with Chairman Graham to discuss this issue but not found a solution to it.  Thus, Chairman Graham directed staff to prepare a resolution of denial for this item.


Staff also notes that the applicant has also not complied with Chairman Grahamís request to provide staff with the valid insurance papers for pilots who store aircraft at the site.


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

Fauquier County Department of Community Development