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Different laws for different people?
By John Thoburn
Reston Times
Letters to the Editor
April 25, 2001

County spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald had the thankless job of defending the indefensible.

In her April 11 letter she writes bravely of "lawful conditions" and "Thoburn's violations" that, if ignored, "would make a mockery of the entire zoning process in Fairfax County."

If Fairfax County's spin machine is to be believed, their zoning condition prohibiting an antique "Wurlitzer jukebox" in my golf clubhouse is a "lawful condition." Does Alice really live in Wonderland? The real "mockery" has been Fairfax County's shameless insistence on such absurd conditions for 10 years.

To make matters worse, Fairfax County has harassed my business by inventing ridiculous interpretations of their poorly worded conditions. Golf Park has a condition allowing a "snack bar concession."

The county issued a zoning violation against us for selling fountain Cokes and microwaved hot dogs, arguing that we should be selling Cokes and pre-wrapped roast beef deli sandwiches instead. Even serving hot coffee on a cold day violates their interpretation.

Your tax money was spent to send out a zoning inspector on a hot July day to buy a Coke and hot dog at the snack bar. He ate the evidence! Meanwhile, Fairfax County golf facilities sell cold beer and pizza.

Different laws for different people, that is how this county does it!

Fairfax County has a clear conflict of interest by building a competing golf driving range with night lighting, miniature golf and an executive golf course. These are all amenities they denied me the right to build in a superior location at an interchange to 12 lanes of freeway.

Deliberate discrimination is what makes a "mockery" of the law. It violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and the guarantee of property rights in the Virginia Constitution.

Obviously, I did not "agree" to these conditions and restrictions Fitzgerald alleges.

Golf Park did plant every single one of those trees shown on the site plan. We planted more than 700 trees at a cost of $125,000 in locations approved at that time by the Urban Forester. Our occupancy permit was issued because we satisfied all of the conditions.

Under court order Fairfax County has finally tagged the 92 trees they now want moved to different locations to satisfy the arbitrary whim of a different tree bureaucrat. At a great loss in revenue, Golf Park complied with every unreasonable condition and unfair restriction imposed. But there is zero public benefit to be derived from this costly tree relocation, and I simply don't have the money to waste.

Requiring the trees to now be planted in different locations is changing the rules in the middle of the game. Apparently Fairfax County will do whatever it takes to drive me out of business with senseless requirements.
Fitzgerald makes much ado about nothing in arguing that the land is residentially zoned. The land where the county driving ranges and golf courses are located is also residentially zoned. Golf Park at Hunter Mill is not in a "residential neighborhood."

Our family's 92 acres is larger than most subdivisions, is surrounded by roads on three sides, is adjacent to the Dulles Toll Road, a commercial office park, a cell phone tower, and VDOT's highway maintenance yard.
For 10 years Fairfax County has blocked my request to build a Par-3 golf course and miniature golf at my range. Fairfax County should not have the ultimate golf monopoly. They should not be able to build whatever golf business they want, while imposing a different set of laws and regulations on me in order to limit their competition.
The simple question is: How many times should Fairfax County be allowed to discriminate against one family before the county is found in "contempt" of the Constitution and its guarantees of equality and basic property rights?
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2001 FREE John Thoburn 2001 FREE John Thoburn