Failed pool application cost $6,000

Published 6:41 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Plans for an above ground pool were denied 4-1 Thursday, prompting the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors to take a closer look at the application process for exceptions to the county’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area ordinance. 

Day’s Point resident Rich Antcliff, who had applied for the exception, told the Board he had felt encouraged by a supervisor to proceed with the process that had taken a year and a half and cost $6,000, only to be denied. 

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“It’s been a fool’s errand for me,” he said, adding that the system was broken. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The unnamed supervisor turned out to be Dick Grice from the Smithfield District, who apologized to Antcliff and wants to bring the application back before the Board next month for another vote. 

Grice said he got one email from Antcliff more than a year ago and simply indicated that he should follow the rules and procedures concerning his application. Grice admitted to having forgotten about the email when Antcliff’s application came up Thursday. 

The confusion stems from the Board’s seemingly inconsistent track record on enforcing the ordinance when it comes to exception applications. 

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree, who cast the only vote not to deny the application, pointed out that others have come to the Board for an exception only after the structure or impervious surface had been built — and some have been approved. 

This resident went through the process properly and was denied, said Acree. 

Typically, the applications deal with structures being built within the Resource Protection Area, which is a 100-foot buffer between buildable land and bodies of water. Under the ordinance, structures and impervious surfaces are not to be built in those areas. Exceptions can be made for situations that fit certain criteria. 

Antcliff’s pool was to be located in his backyard, along Tormentor’s Lake, and 50 feet within the RPA. Other areas of the property were unsuitable, according to the water quality assessment conducted for the project.

Isle of Wight Environmental Planner Kim Hummel said a pool is considered an accessory structure and is not necessary for the use of this property as a residence. 

A staff report stated that the request did not meet four of the five required criteria used to grant exceptions. 

However, the Isle of Wight Planning Commission recommended approval for the Antcliff’s exception with a 7-3 vote, while county staff recommended denial. 

Grice said the Board set a bad precedent Thursday with its decision. 

It encourages people to ignore the ordinance and, when caught, ask for forgiveness, he said. 

“That is the wrong message to send to the community,” he said.

“If we are going to decide as a Board that we are going to enforce this regulation more rigidly, we should make an announcement and not penalize one individual,” said Grice.

“It’s not fair,” he said. 

Recently, the Board has granted a few exceptions, and where in some cases the structures were already built. 

In May 2018, the Board approved a shed and pole barn that had been built within the RPA. Following a public hearing on the application, then-county attorney Mark Popovich warned the Board that there is a financial penalty imposed on the county for failing to enforce the Chesapeake Bay Act at the state level.

In January, an application to build a shed on a lot that already exceeded the amount of impervious surface in the Resource Protection Area was unanimously approved by the Board. In that case, the excess impervious surface had previously been added without an exception being granted, and had been done so after the fact. The shed was in addition to that previous construction and the Planning Commission had recommended denial.

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said that the application process also includes requests for comment from various agencies, including the state. 

In an email to Board members, Antcliff outlined the costs he incurred during the process, to include $2,750 for a water quality assessment, $2,400 for an engineering drawing and $1,200 for a legal notice that he described as having to “pay to publicize my humiliation.” 

“This is too high a bar for an average citizen to pay just to be told ‘no.’  You folks could consider having these kinds of exceptions get a draft approval/disapproval before spending all of this money.  If you would reimburse me for my expenses, I would appreciate it,” wrote Antcliff. 

Isle of Wight Director of Planning and Zoning Amy Ring said that although the ordinance is clear, the opportunity to ask for an exception is built into the law. Planning staff helps the applicant look for options without going through that process, she said. 

“We don’t want people to spend a lot of money if they don’t want to,” said Ring. 

Robertson said that the applicant was advised on more than one occasion that the project did not meet the requirements for approval. 


Pool request became expensive

The roughly $6,000 it cost Rich Antcliff to get a Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act extension application before the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors for an above ground pool is based on requirements and requests coming from either the state or the county. 

The water quality assessment, at a cost of $2,750, is a state requirement for any structure that will be built in a resource protection area, according to Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson. 

The $1,200 for public notices in local newspapers is also a state requirement, said Robertson. 

Antcliff said he initially submitted a computer rendition that he had created himself for an engineering drawing, but was told it needed to be professionally done. That drawing cost $2,400.  {/mprestriction}