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

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