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For Immediate Release

Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Contact: Jo Thoburn

55 Days Behind Bars
Thoburn Declares Victory on Berm Case

After incarcerating small businessman John Thoburn 54 days in the Fairfax County jail, the Fairfax County attorney’s office has finally admitted that there was never a problem with of the berm they required him to build at the Golf Park at Hunter Mill in Vienna, Virginia.

Fairfax County Zoning Administrator Jane Gwinn has decided that the berm, which was in question, meets her approval and that the case should be dropped. However, she still asked that Thoburn pay the $24,500 in fines, which accumulated while she made-up her mind, whether to grant final approval on the project.

"The county government is clearly out of control when they demanded that I sit in jail for 54 days while they decide whether I built the berm correctly. I told them it was right. My engineers told them it was right. Even their own zoning inspectors said it was right. Yet, Jane Gwinn and Dave Bobzien decided to sue me anyway," said John Thoburn. "Maybe it’s time a few county attorneys and zoning bureaucrats sat behind bars for a month or two."

The berm had been built to the proper height before Fairfax County ever filed their lawsuit against Thoburn in the spring of 2000. They used the court to try to shut down Thoburn’s business which is a major competitor to the Fairfax County-owned Oak Marr golf facility a few miles away.

The Oak Marr facility was granted many of the amenities that the county denied Thoburn including a 9-hole executive golf course, miniature golf, and night lighting. Furthermore, they built their facility without planting hundreds of extra trees or building berms to protect the residential neighborhoods, which surround it on all sides. (Thoburn’s range is on the 12-lane Dulles Toll Road and is overlooked by nearby office buildings.)

"The county has double standards. One for the small businessman, and one for themselves," said Thoburn.

A defense fund has been set up by Defenders of Property Rights, a Washington, D.C.-based, not-for-profit organization, which focuses on property rights issues across the country.

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