Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ropes Course Update 6/22/2017 *FINAL UPDATE BEFORE HEARING*

Whitehall still needs your support!

Dear Whitehall Farm friends, supporters, and customers,
We are now down to the last week until our Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing about being allowed to operate a ropes course on the farm by-right as part of our agritourism business. Currently we have 460 petition signees. Nadine, I, and our farm team can’t thank you enough for your support.
We received the Fairfax County Zoning Administrator’ official response to our appeal yesterday; 98 pages! Apparently, the Commonwealth will come to an end if Zoning can’t stop the scourge known as Whitehall Farm. How much money are they spending in their attempt to keep us from doing what VA Code 15.2-22.88.6 (AKA the Boneta Bill) says we are allowed to do?
The Zoning Administrator included numerous interesting things in her attempted refutation of our appeal claims:
  • Since we harvested timber 6 years ago, the Zoning Administrator claims Whitehall’s forest is no longer a silviculture crop. While you can’t expect the Zoning Administrator to know everything, you should expect her to know something about what she is ruling on. If you have visited Whitehall (the Zoning Administrator hasn’t), you know our woods are intact because we practice renewable, sustainable forestry. Our harvests are select and occur every 15 to 20 years, so of course our forest is still a silviculture crop and would be even if we had clear cut it and replanted.
  • That Popes Head Road not having a shoulder creates a “health, safety, and general welfare” issue that allows her to require a Special Permit. When Nadine and I wanted to open a Paintball Facility, the Zoning Department recommended approval even though paintball’s entrance was to be at 12711 Popes Head. That location had the bare minimum sight distances required by VDOT. Our market location’s (proposed entrance for a ropes course) sight distances are twice as long. Much safer.
  • The Zoning Administrator cites a farm in Prince Edward County having to get a Special Permit in order to open a ropes course as precedent for her ruling. Only one problem; that farm applied for that Special Permit two full years before the passage of VA Code 15.2-22.88.6. Perhaps putting that farm through the ordeal and cost of a Special Permit was a factor in the VA General Assembly enacting this law with almost 80% bi-partisan support.
I could go on, but you guys have lives and we have a farm to run. I spoke with a very nice lady who is the Clerk to the Board of Zoning Appeals yesterday and if you wish to speak at our appeal hearing, all you have to do is email the Board clerks at to be put on the speakers list. The hearing is scheduled for 9AM, June 28th in the Board Auditorium, Lobby Level, Government Center Building, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia. Public support is paramount! We need more supportive speakers!
The Whitehall Farm Family

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ropes Course Update 6/8/17

Whitehall needs your support!
Zoning Update 6/8/17

Petition link HERE

Dear Whitehall Farm friends, supporters, and customers,

We are now within three weeks until our Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing about being allowed to operate a ropes course on the farm by-right as part of our agritourism business. We can’t emphasize enough how important the revenue from the ropes course is to our ability to continue what we have started here. When VA Code 15.2-22.88.6 (AKA the Boneta Bill) passed in 2014 with almost 80% bi-partisan support, it was an acknowledgement that small family farms needed help to stay in business.

Fairfax County Zoning is claiming that this use isn’t a by-right issue by asserting that a ropes course isn’t a natural activity or attraction and that it will have, as of now, an unnamed adverse effect on the health, safety, and general welfare of the public. But in a Washington Business Journal article about the county opening their own ropes courses, the heads of the Fairfax Park Authority completely refute Fairfax County Zoning’s assertions:

“We are truly making this course a ‘travel lightly’ on the land to preserve and protect these resources and to serve as a springboard (so to speak) to nature in the tree tops,” Barbara Nugent, the Authority’s park services division director, said in an email.
High ropes courses, according to the Park Authority, offer a low-impact, first-hand look at the forest ecosystem, while also providing exercise, team building and personal confidence. They are an opportunity for everyone, from elementary school children to adults, “to access the forest by climbing up into the trees.”

“Ropes courses have been used worldwide to allow people to gain access to forest canopies where they can see firsthand the complexity of forest biomes and gain an appreciation of how complex and rich these biologically diverse ecosystems can be,” per the RFP, which closes Jan. 22.

This article also says that the county is planning “multiple” courses. The hypocrisy of the county’s position is staggering.

We urgently need all who support Whitehall to sign our online petition and attend our appeal hearing on Wednesday, June 28th at 9AM in the auditorium of 12000 Government Center Parkway. A full auditorium will send a strong message.

Thank you,
The Whitehall Farm Family

Press links: