Sniff sniff sniff.  I smell a rat.  Last night the BOCS voted unanimously to deny Eric Finley a Special use Permit to build an asphalt plant in Bristow, VA, near the Victory Lakes, Sheffield Manor, and Saybrooke subdivisions.

At last, the asphalt plant question has been settled.  No asphalt plant for Mr. Finley, even though he was advised to purchase land in that area that had been  zoned as heavy industrial.  That zoning has been in effect for about 30 some years.   Last spring, all but one member of the planning council had voted to approve Mr. Finley’s request. 

The fly in the proverbial ointment seemed to be that the residents of Victory Lakes Community objected to having an asphalt plant so close to their homes.  That makes sense too.  NIMBY is a pretty common feeling, especially when one thinks about the possibility of being downwind from an asphalt plant.  It beats a pig farm but not by much. 

 In addition to smelling a rat, I also  see both sides.  Mr. Finley’s land was zoned for heavy industrial use.  Residents of Victory Lakes don’t want to live near an asphalt plant.  Let’s take this issue back a few approvals.  Why on earth would anyone build high density, expensive housing on a tract of land which butted up next to land zoned for heavy industry?  Where was the buffer zone?   Did the BOCS who approved the land for future homes in Victory Lakes have a clue that this might just become a problem? 

The one caveat in the whole deal and the one caveat that bit Mr. Finley in his hindquarters was that the aspahlt plant required a Special Use Permit on top of the correct zoning.  Apparently a Special Use Permit (SUP) is needed for all sorts of things like day care, large box buildings like a Lowes, churches, etc.  It’s the county’s way of maintaining a little control over what goes in where. 

I am not sure why the supervisors unanimously voted no.  One has to ask why they have a planning commission.  The planning commission voted to approve Mr. Finley’s request last spring.  I assume that panning commission, an appointed group, had checked things out pretty thoroughly. 

One has to ask why there is no buffer zoning between Victory Lakes and heavy industry zoning.  One also has to ask who advised Mr. Finley to buy that land.   Did he talk with anyone from the country, either elected, appointed or employeed? 

The schools also need to get into the act.  Are they not at all concerned about what is being built around them?  Were any school board members there at that meeting last night?  Victory Lakes Elementary is supposedly only a half mile from the former proposed alphalt plant site.  ?   Cheapest land isn’t necessarily the best land.   How about a peep or two from them.  Perhaps I missed it.  George Mason Univerisity weighed in, advising not to approve the SUP.  They cited traffic impact on  attracting high tech business as a major reason. 

Meanwhile, it was hard for me to take a side.  Mr. Finley appeared to be willing to do whatever was required of him by the county to keep the environmental impact at a minimum.  Why did he choose to buy land in that exact location?  Did he check out what hoops he might have to jump through before being allowed to build his plant? 

I can also see residential concerns.  Additionally there is the concern about 1 asphalt plant and then wondering what comes next.   An asphalt plant in close proximity can impact quality of life in ways seen (like huge trucks running you off the road) and unseen (environmental hazards, carcinogens, etc).   What kinds of checks and balances exist to hold any company to doing what is says it will do environmentally? 

Start asking the right questions and just watch the rats start to scurry.

Preliminary Story in News & Messenger

43 Thoughts to “Special Use Permits Take on Essence of Rat”

  1. I am hoping my merry band of men will make corrections and fill in the blanks for me. The merry band pay much closer attention to the BOCS than I every possibly could. They know where the skeletons are buried and they watch Captain Sound-byte like a hawk.

    Speak, O Merry Band…

  2. Mom

    The first anomaly of the evening was that Griffin himself gave the presentation, Why?

  3. Bristow Resident

    First off I will say that I am surprised Finley did not have a better set of experts. His lawyer seemed borderline incompetent; his argument in support was full of holes and obviously skewed in his selective use of facts. The “toxicology expert” should have stayed home. She was obviously the only one who would show here a$$ for money. She gets up and states her “expert” opinion on what the impact of toxins will be just minutes after the planning commission stated that there could be no estimate because the equipment and environmental factors were not decided yet! These two did not help Finley at all.

    Also, when the pros and cons were presented, it was obvious that the argument should have been against the facility. It is curious why it was approved in the first place. It appears that someone led (“directed” in Finley’s words) Finley to that property. Obviously some assurances were given that it would be approved and the proffers were adjusted to support the facility (the 1989 proffer did specifically prohibit asphalt plants). I think that a news organization should do some digging into this…

    I hope that Finley gets his plant, but it needs to be in a location that better supports his needs and is not is such a close proximity to schools and residences. No one there was against Finley and what he wants to do, only against the proposed location.

  4. Lafayette

    What happened with the cell tower Special Use Permit at Ben Lomond Park at Flat Branch?

  5. Need to Know

    Griffin exceeded his usual incompetent self last night. He couldn’t even round up his own people whom Supervisors wanted to question. Their staff report whitewashed many of the key issues including the impacts on Innovation and home values in the area. It clearly had the ring of an earlier Stewart demand that the Special Use Permit (SUP) be approved and that Griffin was to produce a report justifying that approval.

    I sympathize with the Planning Commission. They made a decision based on bad information. The staff report was about all the information they had and it was a political document aimed at securing something Stewart wanted. The Commissioners can’t go back and do all of the research and analysis on every project that Planning Office staff fails to produce.

    This has been a keystone cops episode from the beginning. Stewart advised Finley to buy the property, and campaign contributions from Finley began to flow into Stewart’s coffers. Neither of them was bright enough to realize that the project required an SUP, and that the process of obtaining one might be difficult.

    Stewart and Finley tried to get the SUP approved last year but a huge turnout from area residents and their failure to get enough other Supervisors to vote in favor caused them to defer it. They took one more shot last night during the height of the summer vacation season hoping no one was watching, but they were.

    They did not count on the massive resistance from area residents, nor the impressive showing of people representing Innovation. The asphalt plant would have been located next door to Innovation. Moreover, this is the first time ever that I have known of Martin Briley, the Director of Economic Development, to take any stand on a land use issue. Briley’s credibility depends to a large extent on finding targeted businesses and organizations to locate in Innovation. Had this asphalt plant been approved he might as well have just started looking for another job.

    In the end, with an election just over a year away, Stewart did the only thing he could do politically. He threw the guy he suckered into giving him thousands of dollars of campaign contributions under the bus. I think also, that Griffin joined Finley under the bus. Stewart did not give his lackey Griffin a heads up that he was not going to support the SUP, and allow Griffin an opportunity to rewrite the staff report and look somewhat less stupid than he actually did last night.

  6. Mom

    The cell tower was deferred to some undetermined date in the future in order for the applicant to explore different heights and slightly different locations. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a different outcome however, T-Mobile attorneys last night, made a $500 contribution in April (right before their final submission deadline) to the Captain’s campaign fund. I don’t know which troubles me more, the fact that land use applications are for sale in PWC or the sense that price of the required bribe, err, contribution is so cheap.

  7. Need to Know

    @Mom

    It’s amazing to me that Prince William County has become as corrupt as it is. Gerhart started the process of turning County staff over to developers and other special interests. He had his “mini-me” Peacor to aid his plans. The chink in their chain was their non-existent oversight of the County Government that allowed the OIT bid-rigging to go on for years costing County taxpayers millions and ultimately forcing Gerhart to resign. OK, “retire” and it had nothing to do with the scandal even though he left just when the scandal was exposed.

    Gerhart had already transformed the Planning Office into a subsidiary of the local development community by hiring Griffin as Planning Director over much more highly qualified and experienced Planning Office leaders who had been in PWC for years. Stewart claimed that one reason for hiring Peacor to replace Gerhart was continuity and experience but they certainly didn’t adhere to those criteria in selecting a Planning Director.

    Griffin has since driven out all of the planners who had been with PWC for years and anyone who would not play along with his corruption.

    Enter Captain Sound Bite and his crusade to deliver whatever developers and other campaign contributors want. Previously, Sean Connaughton (who is every bit as corrupt as the Captain) did not have the advantage of a fully subservient staff.

    Mom – in response to your comment about how cheap applications are now, the answer is simply economics. Applications are so easily bought now from a corrupt County staff and an ambitious Captain Sound Bite who has his eyes on higher office that their price has fallen. Whenever supply skyrockets, price drops precipitously also. Stewart, Griffin and Peacor should just post a price list outside the McCoart Building, but with the caveat that when citizens become aware as they did yesterday the County might not be able to deliver.

    I can’t wait for November 2011!

  8. Lafayette

    Thanks, Mom. I’ve never held my breath on the cell tower. There are more pressing issues. It was the elementary school at Stonewall Middle. Now, it’s a 6′ chain link fence at the sidewalk at a busy intersection at the end of my block. VDOT made them set it back 15′, but it’s still it a major problem with view of the road.

    “I don’t know which troubles me more, the fact that land use applications are for sale in PWC or the sense that price of the required bribe, err, contribution is so cheap.”
    Both are equally troubling. I guess the law firm will have to make a bigger contribution next time. 😉

    Sounds like I will have to watch tonight’s repeat of the BoS meeting. I heard the public hearing on the asphalt plant was three hours. Geesh.

  9. Not the Red Queen

    So much for the BOCS blather about their commitment to creating jobs in PWC. For the whole of 2009, PWC attracted 495 new jobs. They bragged when the Dizzy Pig BBQ Co. brought 6 new jobs, Goodman Manufacturing added 3 new jobs and IMSolutions added 25 new jobs at Catons Crossing.

    But last night they rejected a business that would have brought 100 new jobs to the county. Perhaps they have an attention span problem.

    The Finley project was proposed for a site that was zoned for industrial uses. Not to mention that the BOCS recently revised the long-range land use map and never even considered changing the use of this property from industrial to something more appropriate. Even if Chairman Stewart had not advised Finley to buy that particular property, Finley had every right to believe that PWC wanted an industrial use for the site.

    And where were the Victory Lakes residents in March 2008 when the BOCS unanimously voted to rezone the Finley site from light industrial to heavy industrial? While I understand why people would object to an industrial use near their neighborhood, it is unfair to remain silent until a business makes an informed decision to locate an industrial use on property that is planned and zoned for industrial uses.

    But PWC Supervisors seem to live for the moment, without regard for consistency or fair play. This is likely one reason the county has problems attracting commercial development.

    How can the BOCS expect to have any credibility with the business community or citizens after rejecting an industrial use on land zoned for industrial uses by Victory Lakes at the same time they are pushing through an industrial use on parkland in Dale City for the War Museum? Do the affected Dale City neighborhoods have the same rights as Victory Lakes? I am guessing they do not, but we will see.

    Who wants to do business in a county that says one thing but does another? Why do citizens accept a BOCS full of Supervisors who follow an erratic leader blindly, without regard for quality of life issues or the county’s commitment to economic development goals?

  10. Elena

    The reality is now Corey can use Eric Finley as the “sacrificial lamb”. The WORST offenders in this county are the housing developers. Watch when Avendale comes up next week, as Corey so slimily snuck it in to the Agenda. Now Corey can say he isn’t “bought” by developers because he screwed Finley and can now vote yes to screw the Rural Area.

    He pledged to protect the Rural Crescent, see how fast he votes to approve a housing development for 250 homes (minimum)which, per zoning, should ONLY allow 25! THIS is what screws PWC, the continued love affair with building homes instead of commercial. Homes are a drain on our county budget, school system, roads, environment, and a multitude of other services. THIS is the hypocrisy in the denial of Finley. The Comprehensive Plan Updage in 2008, not only reaffirmed this land was industrial that Finley subsequently purchased, but increased it to HEAVY industrial! Where was the outrage by Victory Lake residents then? Where was the outrage by the School System who had a school built there? Where is the outrage at such a JOKE of a “planning” system?

  11. Need to Know

    @Not the Red Queen

    Wartime Museum? Stay tuned. One thing at a time.

  12. I am glad the plant won’t be here, but I hope PWC finds them an more suitable place, especially considering that Finley bought the land under questionable advisory.

  13. Need to Know

    @Elena

    Elena – you’re preaching to the choir on the completely corrupt and incompetent planning process in Prince William County. Good post.

    I keep trying to feel sorry for and sympathize with Eric Finley. His biggest mistake was trusting Captain Sound Bite. He seems like a good guy and upstanding member of our business community who was just out of his league politically. Also, asphalt is a product we all need. We just don’t need a plant next to Innovation or near residential areas. My stumbling block with Mr. Finely is his giving $16,000 in campaign contributions to Corey Stewart. A business with a legitimate application should present it on its merits rather than attempt to grease the process with campaign contributions. On the other hand, I suppose that these days that’s the only way to get applications through the planning process in Prince William County. Regarding Mr. Finley personally, it’s not an easy call for me.

  14. Not the Red Queen

    People need to remember that the Finley site is still zoned M/T, heavy industrial. The Zoning Ordinance says “It is designed to provide areas for and encourage development of heavy industrial uses, and in particular for including those which generate considerable truck and/or heavy equipment traffic…” This means a number of uses, including a truck terminal or industrial laundry, could go into the Finley site at any time, without any rezoning or public hearing.

  15. Need to Know

    @Not the Red Queen #14

    Good point. But, what are we to do? Representatives of Innovation showed up in large numbers last night. I have no doubt that some current businesses there now would leave, as they said they would do at the public hearing, and new development at Innovation would grind to a halt if the asphalt plant went in. Innovation attracts exactly the sort of jobs and economic development we want in Prince William County. Building a facility that would kill off Innovation has been stopped for now, but could happen later just you wrote.

    Combine your comment with Elena’s and the obvious need is a revision of the Planning Process and the Comprehensive Plan. However, recall that Captain Sound Bite screwed up the Comp Plan revision process recently. The revised Land Use Chapter produced by a Land Use Advisory Committee composed largely of Stewart appointees produced a product not adequately pro-developer for Stewart so he teamed up with Griffin and Peacor to write his own version (must deliver the goods for those campaign contributions). He dismissed the more pro-citizen and pro-taxpayer version of the update from the Planning Commission out-of-hand.

    The bottom line until we can get rid of Captain Sound Bite and the other pro-developer Supervisors (typically that refers to Covington, Nohe and Jenkens) is that we’re in deep doo-doo. We need to elect a BOCS next year that will (1) clean out the Planning Office, (2) redo the Comprehensive Plan thoroughly, and (3) eliminate the “pay-for-service-unless-you-get-caught” model of development application processing.

    I’m already working to help get change in the BOCS next year, and will be increasing my efforts as the election approaches. I don’t believe in complaining if you’re not willing to make an effort to bring about the change. Quite frankly, if we don’t succeed, the BOCS comes back after the election in its current form, and the Planning Office isn’t cleaned out, Mrs. NTK and I will probably take the first opportunity we have to sell our home and move to Loudoun or Fauquier.

  16. Not the Red Queen

    The BOCS could initiate a rezoning for the Finley property to change the M/T designation to something more appropriate, just as they initiated the rezoning to change parkland to industrial for the War Museum. Hopefully the Bristow Opposition group is committed to their cause and will act to protect their community by demanding the BOCS fix this land use problem for the long term.

  17. A big thanks to the band of merry men (and women if any are involved) in propping up the post with some fact and solidly based opinion. I hope the BOCS is reading today.

    Contributors are putting some excellent substance behind their opinion.

    And still, look who comes out looking ….well…I erased the word. It wasn’t a nice thing to say about Captain Sound-bite. So let me get this straight…he advised Mr. Finley to buy land, then after Mr. Finley buys the land and applies for a permit, votes to throw Mr. Finley under the bus and deny him his permit? What a back-stabbing so and so if that is the case.

  18. Need to Know

    @Moon-howler

    That’s the gist of the matter. Mr. Finley would have fared much better dealing with Tony Soprano than with Captain Sound Bite.

  19. Elena

    Classic

    Need to Know :
    @Moon-howler
    That’s the gist of the matter. Mr. Finley would have fared much better dealing with Tony Soprano than with Captain Sound Bite.

  20. Mom

    I suspect that Mr. Finley’s better course of action would have been to take a large portion of the campaign funds donated to he who can’t shoot straight as well as all of the money paid to Hampshire, combined the two and delivered it in a manila envelope to Lubely. For those counting, that is now two embarrasing losses in a row for Mr. Hampshire (Stonewall Middle School Site was No. 1). Best he get back to ambulance chasing and fleecing the School Board.

  21. Need to Know

    @Mom

    Hampshire worked for the Prince William County Attorney’s office before going into private practice. County taxpayers were buying his services previously. I hope the School Board is no longer giving him any of our money.

    Agree on Lubeley. He is the true behind-the-scenes power in Prince William County now. Forget about Greg Letiecq. Corey throws Greg a bone every now and then when he wants to fire up the HSM base but Lubeley is calling the shots.

  22. Mom

    He’s currently working for Blankingship and Keith which provides the legal services to the School Board. Interestingly, they budget $500,000 annually and always wind up overspending that budget line item by $300,000. The truly sad thing is that the School Board is apparently not given a line item accounting for legal bills, they are simply given a block billing statement, a circumstance that is virtually unheard of in most legal circles.

  23. Lafayette

    @Mom
    I loved seeing another loss for Hampshire. I’m counting too. It was one of the first things I read this morning and then knew it was sure to be a good day. Several other neighbors noticed him in the crowd last night and are keeping score too. I sure hope the school board learned their lesson with him as respresentation. All shoud think long and hard before hiring that guy.

  24. Mom

    As a rule of thumb, I never trust anybody with a bow-tie.

  25. Lafayette

    The school board is being ripped off BIG TIME. It is indeed an unheard of billing practice in the legal world. Furthermore, who would stroke a check so blindly without a line by line accounting? And with the public’s money to boot! Never mind, I know the answer to that one.

  26. Mom

    Let’s see if we can get Lafayette ticked off today. One word should do it.
    Richardson
    Richardson, Richardson, Richardson.

    Now everybody step back and wait for the explosion.

  27. Mr. Richardson has howlings protection on this blog.

  28. In case you have been following the Avendale issue, here is an email I received:

    A while back you contacted me concerning the Avendale proposal. I wanted to let you know that the developer of this proposal recently contacted the Board of County Supervisors and requested that their proposal be heard at our August 3, 2010 meeting. The hearing has been set for 7:30 p.m. at the McCoart building. If you do wish to speak publicly on this matter, you can attend the meeting and sign up to speak at Citizen’s Time. Please let me know if you have any questions.

    –Corey

    Corey A. Stewart

    Chairman

    Prince William Board of County Supervisors

    1 County Complex Court

    Prince William, VA 22192

    (703) 792-4640 – Telephone/(703) 792-4637 – Fax

    cstewart@pwcgov.org

    http://www.co.prince-william.va.us

  29. gogreen

    @Not the Red Queen
    No. County can’t change Finley zoning. That would be a downzoning to a “lesser” use. County is stuck with the most intense industrial use for the property just the way they zoned it.

    Innovation are a bunch of suckers. They demanded the Board kill the asphalt project (Apparently Innovation makes all the rules in the county now). But the Board knew what they were doing. They happily folded for the bigwigs at GMU and Innovation and will cash their fat campaign contribution checks knowing all along that some much nastier industrial use will be put on the property. But the nasty industrial use will be by-right so the Board doesn’t have to vote on it. Brilliant.

  30. Pinko….Lets see how much has been given in campaign funds. We can guess the outcome.

  31. KM Beam

    Talk about campaign donations. Take a look at vpap.org.

    Conveniently on May 12, 2009 just 6 days after the PWC planning commission approved the Finley SUP, the Power Loft Data Center donated $1,500.00 to Wally Covington.

    Branscome Paving donated $1,000.00 to Corey on 5-15-2009

    Bobby J. Surface founder of Superior Paving donated $2,500.00 X 2 on 5-28-2009 and 5-28-2010.

    Both of these company’s own asphalt plants near Eric Finley’s property. Guess that is one way to keep away potential competition.

    One more thing. I looked at Powerloft’s web site. They own another data center located in San Antonio, Texas. Guess what they built their data center beside? Asphalt Plant? No but close. How about a concrete plant.

    The saga continues……

  32. Lafayette

    The paving companies donate to most supervisors. Bobby Surface has been quite generous to Supervisor Stirrup over the years.

    @Mom
    LOL!! That’s not going to happen. I’m laughing at Corey continually calling Giff Hampshire..Mr. Gifford. 🙂

  33. Lafayette

    @KM Beam
    vpap is a favorite site with several of us on this blog. I’m glad to know there’s one more person watching the contributions.

  34. KM Beam, the intrigue is facinating. Thanks for connecting the dots. Please continue to keep us informed.

    The idea that the competition would be a player in all this really stinks. I guess it was a little more than a rat that I smelled.

  35. KM Beam

    Dug a little deeper this morning. Bobby Surface has been a continual supporter of Mr. Stirrup. A steady $2,500.00 per year since 2005

    In 2007 Progeny Systems donated $5,000.00 to Michael May. Alexander Kot who is the CFO for Progeny led the Bristow Opposition to fight Finley’s plant. Was Mr. Kot really concerned about the residents of Brsitow or was this all for Innovation? I have my own opinion

    On May 14th of 2009 Branscome Paving donated $1,000.00 to Mrs. Caddigan. That is eight days after Finley received the planning commission approval to build their asphalt plant.

    Here is Progeny again. October 2006 Progeny donated $10,000.00 to Mr. Stewart aka Captain Soundbite. I love the Captain Soundbite.

    You know what would be funny. Round up all of these people and invite Eric Finley to the party. That would be interesting. Watch ole Corey squirm.

    We all know how he operates. He tells everyone what they want to hear. I would love to see him talk his way out of that one.

    I too love VPAP

  36. Need to Know

    @KM Beam
    Welcome to the blog! I like the way you think.

  37. Mom

    To the tune of the Captain America Theme Song

    When Captain Soundbyte spies and empty field,
    All those who chose to oppose his greed must yield.
    If he’s faced with a fight and a duel is due,
    Then the his lies and his yellow stripe will come through.
    When Captain America spies and empty field.

  38. Mom

    Oops

    When Captain Soundbyte spies an empty field,
    All those who chose to oppose his greed must yield.
    If he’s faced with a fight and a duel is due,
    Then the his lies and his yellow stripe will come through.
    When Captain Soundbyte spies an empty field.

  39. Elena

    Hi Bristow Resident,
    Welcome first! I will have to look into the 1989 “proffer” issue. The zoning in the comp plan does not talk about proffers, it only addresses land use. It has been zoned light industrial for over 30 years, and rezoned, during the comp plan process in 2008, upgraded to heavy industrial which allows asphault plants. If Mr. Stewart and his fellow Board members had any real interest in proper land use planning, that property should NEVER have upgraded to heavy industrial. There are plenty of by right uses that could be more intensive will no proffer requirements from the applicant. I hope Bristow people understand the possibilities that could be coming in the future.

  40. MoM is rapidly becoming Moonhowlings’ poet laureate.

  41. KM Beam

    I have been curious of why Delegate Bob Marshall (what a lunatic) has taken such an interest in the Finley Asphalt plant. It was obvious he was speaking on behalf of Innovation.

    According to VPAP Bob Marshall received $5,000.00 from NCS Technologies on 7-20-2009. NCS owns property at Innovation. They were leasing office space at Innovation. Most recently just moved to a Buchanan property located off of Limestone Drive in Gainesville. Guess what is down the road. An asphalt plant located off of University Blvd.

    While looking into this I also found that Branscome Paving donated $1,000.00 on 5-12-2009 to Bob Marshall.

    The plot thickens

  42. Lafayette

    KM Beam. Keep up the good work and sharing. Like I said the paving/asphalt companies are generous to the politicians.

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