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Contrary to code / January 14, 2016

(Editors note: The following letter to the Halifax County Board of Supervisors was submitted to Viewpoint for publication.)

To: Halifax County Board of Supervisors

From: Robert Love, Halifax County landowner

RE: VIR Annual Event Schedule & Halifax County Commercial Firing Range Ordinance

Dear Sirs:

I am writing to inform you of improper action voted upon by the Board at the January 4, 2016 Regular Meeting due to erroneous information given to you by county staff. The 2016 Annual Event Schedule was approved for Virginia International Raceway, which contained three nationally televised shooting events, March 16-17, April 20-21 and May 25-26. These events include matches that would have shooting ending near midnight, in direct conflict with the 9 p.m. deadline set forth in the Halifax County Zoning Ordinance.

Furthermore, the County Administrator and Planner, in stating that no change to the ordinance was needed and even presuming the Board of Supervisors could issue a Variance, incorrectly advised the Board. The Code of Virginia clearly outlines that variances are handled and decided upon by the Board of Zoning Appeals, per § 15.2- 2310. Thus the action taken Monday did not alter the Ordinance to allow shooting past 9:00 p.m., it only allowed an event to be held.

Article V. Section Sec. 53-137 (a) of the Halifax County Zoning Ordinance clearly states “Commercial firing ranges shall be permitted to operate during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday. For competitive events, Sunday hours may be modified to 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. upon approval by the board of supervisors. Range operators shall submit a request for modification no less than 45 days prior to any competitive event, or may submit an annual schedule of competitive events for such modification. The board of supervisors shall have the authority to modify operating hours for facilities in proximity to a church, school, or place of public assembly.”

Note that the only modification that can be made is to Sunday hours. There is no provision in the language that allows the Board to extend the hours of any day past 9:00 p.m.; therefore any shooting occurring at the proposed events past the deadline would be in direct violation. As a planning and zoning professional with twenty years of experience with Halifax County, I would never have made such a recommendation to disregard the Ordinance requirements and statues.

In the past, the O’Gara Group, which had sought to have shooting occur past the deadline at VIR, had filed a request to have the Ordinance amended around 2007. At that time, the public outcry from the neighbors and petition signed by County residents caused the amendments to fail. It has been several years since that application was filed and the matter can legally be up for consideration again.

The proper action now is to authorize and advertise new public hearings that seek to amend the Ordinance with language allowing extended hours of operation, before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. The public has a legal right to voice their views on any proposed changes to the Commercial Shooting Range Ordinance.

What occurred Monday night was neither transparent nor accountable to the citizens of Halifax County. I bring this to your attention in order to protect both the County and Virginia International Raceway from any potential liability. The success of VIR is important to tourism and prosperity in Halifax County. VIR has always strived to do things properly, depending heavily on the County staff to ensure legal requirements are being met along the way. Quick action by the Board is needed in order to allow these events to occur as scheduled. Your immediate attention is requested to correctly address this matter.

Robert Love

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