Two Fauquier County Budget Items to Support

fauquier open space

The Fauquier Board of Supervisors is currently working on the County Budget and there is an important role for the public to review and comment on specific items. The County Administrator will release a proposed FY 2020 Budget and FY 2020-2024 Capital Improvement Plan to the Board of Supervisors on February 21st, 2019. The Board will then have several work sessions on the budget in March. 

There are two issues in particular that we would like to see addressed in the FY 2020 budget that are both long overdue. The first is Rappahannock Station Battlefield Park – Phase I which was not completed in 2018 as proposed in the 2018-2022 Capital Improvement Plan. The second is the creating of a full-time zoning inspector position within the Community Development department.

Action campaign for Fauquier residents: Weigh in with the Fauquier Board of Supervisors >>

1) Rappahannock Station Battlefield Park – Phase I

In 2005, PEC raised $500,000 to help purchase 26 acres in the core of the Rappahannock Station Battlefield along the Rappahannock River and gave it to the County. The land, which is just outside of the Town of Remington, was envisioned to serve as an interpretive historical park with access to the scenic Rappahannock River. The 2018-2022 Capital Improvement Plan included $400,000 for preliminary engineering and access to the site for passive recreational use. This project, titled Rappahannock Station Battlefield Park – Phase I, was supposed to be funded in 2018 but was not undertaken.

A sign.
Photo by Paula Combs, PEC

The Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment Survey completed in 2017 clearly showed that completion of this park would meet several of the needs Fauquier residents identified as high priorities. Out of the 30+ needs identified, the number one recreational need was for greenway trails for walking, biking, and hiking. The second recreational need identified was historic places that can be visited by the public. The fourth was river access for boating, kayaking, and swimming. And the fifth was fishing areas. The build-out of this park would meet four of the top five recreational needs in the County and could be completed in a very cost effective manner.

Since the property was purchased in 2005, development of residential lots has outpaced the County’s efforts to open public access. The Rappahannock Landing subdivision which backs the park is nearly complete. Without public access, including parking, there will soon be no way for the rest of the Remington community to enjoy this riverside open space that private donors and the County worked so hard to protect. It is likely that residents in Rappahannock Landing will, understandably, start walking through the unfinished park to access the river. Encroachment of sheds, fences, playsets, etc. into the park property may also become problems if the park is not built out and clearly delineated soon. It’s important that Phase I of this project move forward in 2019 and that full build-out of the park be moved up to 2020.

2) Full-Time Zoning Inspector

As a County on the outskirts of Northern Virginia, Fauquier County Community Development Department administers a sophisticated zoning ordinance. However, the enforcement of the zoning ordinance is complaint-based, relying on neighbors to identify potential violations. The problem of inconsistent enforcement is exacerbated by the fact that the County currently has a single part-time zoning inspector to investigate all complaints. As a result of this limited capacity, even flagrant violations often go unnoticed and uncorrected. Further, there is an absence of proactive zoning compliance monitoring which creates a public perception that zoning regulations are not enforced in the county.

A part-time inspector in a 660-square-mile county cannot effectively respond to the 100+ annual citizen zoning complaints received; identifying non-compliant conditions, issuing letters of violation, explaining needed corrections, and following-up with field visits. Even with a full-time zoning inspector, citizen complaints would likely continue to be the primary method for triggering zoning enforcement. However, citizen complainants would receive much more support from the zoning enforcement officer who will be better able to follow through and document violations.

The benefit of moving from a part-time to full-time zoning inspector include:

  1. Encourage compliance before abuses become egregious
  2. Reduce the likelihood of costly litigation
  3. Reduce the risk of zoning laws being attacked on the basis of non-uniform enforcement
  4. Support for citizens seeking relief from zoning violations

To increase the position from part-time to full-time would cost $34,300. We are urging the Board of Supervisors to increase its part-time (20 hours per week) zoning inspector to full-time status in the 2020 budget. Several long-term employees in top level positions in the Department of Community Development have retired which will likely result in freeing up already allocated funds that could be utilized for the position. The opportunity created allows the integration of the position into County staff at minimal incremental cost.

Action campaign for Fauquier residents: Weigh in with the Fauquier Board of Supervisors >>