Landowner wins court battle with county

Boat docks at Pleasants Landing at Lake Anna, located at the eastern end of the lake. 

The owner of Pleasants Landing has won his battle with county government officials to host outdoor music concerts without having to obtain a conditional use permit.

Louisa Circuit Court Judge Timothy Sanner said in a July 1 letter that the county cannot require Mike Vallerie to have a permit for shows at the Lake Anna property that may attract 200 or more people.

Sanner did not rule, however, on whether Vallerie’s property “is properly situated to hold a series of concerts of 200 or more spectators.”

The judge wrote that “such matter will have to be further addressed by appropriate administrative proceedings.”

As the county’s community development director in 2017, Allyson Finchum told Vallerie in a written zoning determination that his concerts constituted an outdoor gathering. The county zoning code requires a conditional use permit when 200 or more people attend an outdoor gathering at any one time.

Vallerie’s response was that the concerts should fall under the definition of commercial outdoor entertainment, which as a by-right use in the C-2 zoning district does not require the additional permit.

Sanner cited the county’s definition of commercial outdoor entertainment, which includes “predominantly spectator uses conducted in open or partially enclosed or screened facilities. Typical uses include, but are not limited to, sports arenas, motor vehicle or animal racing facilities, and outdoor amusement parks.”

Finchum had determined that since this definition did not mention musical festivals or concerts, these events were not allowed by right.

But Sanner pointed to the same sentence to reach a different conclusion, citing the words “not limited to.”

The other key to Sanner’s decision is the distinction between temporary event venues and permanent ones.

He said he would expect the county to require a conditional use permit for a temporary venue where concerts do not normally take place. The permit allows the supervisors to impose conditions on noise, number of spectators and other details. If the conditions can’t be met, the permit can be denied.

With a venue where events occur on a more permanent basis, the host is expected to iron out those details through an administrative site planning process. The supervisors cannot withhold the right to hold concerts, but the property owner has to provide appropriate facilities and crowd control, if necessary.

Vallerie said he was pleased with the judge’s decision and plans to continue efforts to offer attractions to visitors, such as an ice cream parlor, a marina and, in the future, a restaurant. But he remains aggrieved at how the county has treated him.

“It pains me that Louisa County administrators and supervisors used their authority to impose actions designed to make a selected person or businesses fail,” Vallerie said.

Vallerie has faced determined opposition from a small number of neighbors who say noise from a stage near the water’s edge interferes with their enjoyment of their homes. The Louisa County Board of Supervisors had its own ongoing quarrel with Vallerie after he built steps and a deck onto a structure on the property without a building permit.

Vallerie later obtained the permit, but the steps and deck were located within a five-foot setback and had to be removed anyway.

Earlier this year the judge ruled that the county’s board of zoning appeals erred in April 2019 when it gave Vallerie a variance allowing the steps and deck to be within the setback. Only four of the board’s seven members were present for the meeting and one voted against the variance. As a result, Sanner said, the zoning board’s ruling was invalid because state law requires a majority of the board to vote in favor.

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