A Fauquier landowner will get to keep his permit to build a looping road on his property — even though his neighbors believe it was designed to be a go-kart track — as the result of an unusual Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on Thursday. Still, a neighbor who lost her attempt to stop the road-building nonetheless declared victory, saying she was satisfied by promises made at the meeting.
“Although we didn’t get the permit revoked, we actually won the day,” wrote Jocelyn Alexander on a community Facebook page.
In a lively meeting packed with spectators, the BZA upheld the issuance of a grading permit to Najaf Husain, software entrepreneur, semi-professional race car driver and owner of Wildcat Equestrian Farm. Husain had said he was building a farm road for personal and agricultural use on his 250-acre property north of Warrenton.
In the course of the appeal, Husain stated that he had never planned to build a racetrack, and his lawyer said that if he did race go-karts on his property he would be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Alexander had appealed the county’s granting of the permit, and had said she was concerned about noise, traffic, environmental effects and property values if a racetrack were built.
Husain was granted a grading permit on April 2 to build what he called a “paved access road” to a proposed barn. Neighbors became suspicious when they saw that the 20-foot wide road included a long oval with interior connecting loops. They said in affidavits that they heard from close associates of Husain that he had long wanted to build a track for souped-up go-karts that resemble Formula-I racers. Alexander, who lives nearby and whose family once owned Husain’s land, appealed to the BZA based on what she acknowledged was “circumstantial evidence.”
At the meeting, Alexander’s lawyer David Konick exhibited a large engineer’s plan that showed what had been permitted – a straight 12-wide paved road leading to the 20-foot-wide loop in question. The permit also approved a separate 6-foot wide oval dirt track nearby that Husain said was already being used by his family for horses and dirt bikes.
Konick claimed the plans for the paved road included fuel tanks in an area labeled the “paddock,” which he said was a racing term for a place where cars were kept. “What are those for, to fuel up the sheep?” he asked.
He said he did not have much of an argument with the zoning administrator, Amy Rogers, who granted the grading permit based on the information she was presented. But he said that in the application for the permit “material facts were either misrepresented or not represented at all” and he wanted to try to prove it.
He asked the board if they would compel witnesses to testify; he said he would likely want to subpoena Husain’s engineer, an excavator, and three of Husain’s acquaintances, including his business partner and his ex-wife. He told the board it was within their power to do so, but in the end the board voted 4-1 not to hear from witnesses.
Husain had earlier written a letter to the BZA stating that the looping road was to facilitate backing horse trailers and farm equipment into a barn that was planned for the end of the road. The letter stated that the dirt trail and the paved road were “not for use as a motorized mini ‘Formula 1’ type go kart” track, and that neither the paved road or the dirt trail were designed for commercial use.
Husain’s attorney, Gregory Ashwell, argued at Thursday’s meeting that the permit was issued for road grading and nothing else. “What would happen if the Indy 500 were held there?” he asked, rhetorically. He said the county could move for an abatement of the permit or even seek “jail time” for Husain.
“It will not be done,” he said. “I can assure you it is for agricultural purposes and for no more.” Ashwell said Husain was out of the country Thursday and could not be reached. Ashwell did not return a phone call later asking for comment.
Rogers, the zoning administrator, argued that her granting of the permit was done according to regulations and was based on information contained in the application. She said Husain’s application met the criteria required for a grading permit, and asked the board to uphold her decision. Board member Lawrence McDade said the appeal had not shown that the “zoning administrator’s decision was arbitrary,” and the board upheld the permit on a 5-0 vote.