Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed

Airing dirty water

By Bill Kossler

©Rappahannock News 2005

Beverly Hunter and Rappahannock High School student Larry Oliver presented research on the cleanliness of our streams and the health of our watersheds at the outset of last Wednesday's Rappahannock County planning commission meeting. They spoke as representatives of the local environmental research organization RappFLOW (Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed).

RappFLOW has done what Hunter described as a "quick and dirty" rapid assessment of watershed conditions. In cooperation with numerous area organizations and with the help of field work by Rappahannock County High School students, they have mapped an array of water and land quality variables. By creating a ready body of hard scientific data, they hope to aid county planners and land owners in making decisions that protect and improve the quality of water flowing through our county and out to the Chesapeake Bay

As one of many examples of what RappFLOW has produced; they have mapped the areas of the county in forest, in pasture and in development, overlaid upon a map of the county showing the several local rivers and the portions that are considered impaired or polluted by the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Parts of the Rush and Thornton rivers are designated as 303d impaired by the DEQ. This means that tests find more than the acceptable amount of fecal coliform bacteria germs in the water. If the streams' cleanliness does not improve, the state could impose strict requirements. State mandates could be more burdensome and expensive than actions we may choose to take on our own.

RappFLOW's data helps pinpoint the most likely sources of contamination- say, cattle in a stream or runoff from fields. Identifying the correct sources will help lead to solutions. For instance, hypothetically, a farmer could be approached about keeping cattle out of streams, or allowing a section of stream to become forested. He or she could be steered toward federal grants paying for beneficial changes, like those given by the US. Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The mission of RappFLOW is to help this process wherever it can.

Commissioners listened with interest, asking numerous questions.

At the close of the presentation, County Administrator John McCarthy said he would "like to thank all of the folks with RappFLOW for this valuable technical, detailed work. "Fecal coliform bacteria in a stream isn't that sexy,” McCarthy continued, saying we are unusually fortunate to have so many volunteers helping with this important, if technical work.

Several county citizens also stood up in turn to thank RappFLOW. For more information about RappFLOW, visit their website: http://www.rappflow.org, email mail@rappflow.org or call Beverly Hunter at (540) 937-4038.


Adolfi permit given nod

Sperryville resident Barbara Adolfi applied to the planning commission for a special use permit to operate a counseling practice on Water Street in Sperryville. The practice would occupy the same building which Adolfi recently adapted into a tourist home. Counseling would not overlap with the days the house is used for overnight guests. Adolfi ran the selfsame counseling service in the same location for some years before opening the weekend tourist house.

Under the zoning code, because the counseling business was operating from her residence, Adolfi needed no permit so long as she lived in the house. But making the house a business and not a personal residence changed that legal status, and now a permit is required. The commission voted unanimously to recommend approving the permit, and the Board of Zoning Appeals will make its decision on the matter next Wednesday.


Zoning change request postponed

Peter and Catherine Salvano wish to open an art, gift and jewelry shop at the corner of Fodderstack Road and Route 522. The Salvanos want an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance approved by the Board of Supervisors allowing this use. The planning commission first must recommend approval or denial before the supervisors make their decision.

The Salvanos asked to postpone the matter until the next commission meeting because they were unable to attend. The commission discussed the matter and let the public speak at this meeting, but postponed deciding their recommendation until next month's meeting.

The proposal is recommended for approval by the County Administrator John McCarthy. But both Sheriff Larry Sherertz and the Flint Hill Fire and Rescue Squad submitted letters to the commission expressing concern about traffic safety and increased congestion. Several residents of Flint Hill, including a number of business owners, spoke against the idea too. Opponents all cited concern that the shop would generate traffic, that the fairly large sign would obscure visibility at an already dangerous intersection, and that the parking may not be sufficient. Several commissioners and citizens said they were worried about spot zoning diluting the intent of the zoning code too.

Not all agreed.

"The comprehensive plan says we want to concentrate commercial activity in the villages. This is an existing structure, wanting an accepted use,” commissioner Alvin Henry offered.

Discussion will resume at the next meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the courthouse on October 19th.

Bill Kossler can be reached at bkossler@timespapers.com