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Wedding venue on Rizer property raises concerns

Thursday, May. 5 | By James Ivancic
Jeff Rizer shows the view his guests would have if he is allowed to use his pastoral land off Keith Road as the site for wedding receptions. Randy Litzinger/Fauquier Times
Neighbors of Jeff Rizer were in no mood for a party.

One after another, 19 residents near his property on Watery Mountain Lane voiced objections at an April 21 public hearing to his plans to host weddings and receptions.

They warned of traffic, noise, and danger on the roads from possibly inebriated party guests leaving the venue.

In the end, the Fauquier Planning Commission decided to continue the public hearing and delay making a decision on the request with the hope that Rizer and his neighbors can resolve their differences.

Rizer criticized assertions made in an unsigned letter that was placed in mailboxes – including his own on – that he could eventually hold as many as 45 events per year totaling 1,000 people.

“A lot of these would be smaller, maybe with 10 people. And no wedding last 12 hours. There's the wedding and then two to three hours of music,” he said.

Rizer said he was surprised when it was recommended by county officials that he put up a permanent structure rather than tents.

“That's a much greater investment and I'll need more events” to pay for them, he said.

His idea was to put up tents and folding temporary walls around them to shield the tents as buffer noise. A trailer would bring in portable toilets. The site he's cleared on his 142-acre horse farm is close to his own house on a hill with a view of his pastures and trees and hills beyond. There is a cottage, three rental homes, sheds and two horse barns on the property, which is a half mile off Route 17 across from Airlie. There are two wineries nearby.

Rizer and his daughter Tiffany seek a special exception to allow the wedding events.

During the first three years of use of the property for that purpose, a maximum of 45 events per year would be allowed (35 of them would be limited to 200 guests and 10 events with a maximum of 100 guests).

After three years, a permanent structure would be built along with bathroom facilities and a catering kitchen, no more than 65 events could be held per year, 50 of which could have a maximum of 200 guests and 15 could have no more than 100.

All events are to be one-day affairs between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Rizer said he's put a self-imposed 50 car limit on the number of vehicles at any one event.

“We want to have nice weddings. Our first wedding is a couple from Connecticut in June,” he said. That'll make it a close call in getting a special exception recommendation from the planning commission and approval from the Board of Supervisors.

“We sat down with the planners and were assured there would be no problem,” Rizer said.

But a number of his property owners saw problems and spoke out at the public hearing.

Neighbors' response

“It's a safety issues. The roads here were never intended for this traffic,” said Brian Rougeau, of Cannonball Gate Road, which is off Keith Road, the road providing the main access to the Rizer property. The wedding events would disturb the calm and quiet of the rural neighborhood, he said.

“We should not have to defend ourselves against this threat,” Rougeau said.

“It was a real shock to see what's proposed,” said E.S. Van Ness, a fellow Cannonball Gate resident. “My feeling is this will reduce property values and the quality of life,”

Other residents spoke of the noise and the lights that would come from the receptions on the Rizer property.

Tiffany Rizer told the public hearing gathering that “we will own all of the equipment” and that there wouldn't be movement of the set up equipment to the property for each event. She also said that 100 people attending an event doesn't mean they'd be traveling individually in 100 cars.

She said that they will abide by noise restrictions and that events must be over by 11 p.m. and everyone must be off the premises at 11:45 p.m.

Jeff Rizer told the gathering that he believed the proposal “would be the least invasive.” He said that by right he could increase his horse stabling, but he questioned whether anyone would want to see him expand that.

“We're on 140 acres. It could be 140 homes,” he added.

“I appreciate that nobody wants to see changes,” Rizer said. “I try to be a decent neighbor.”

He said the receptions would be held on Saturdays and Sundays and there wouldn't be an issue with school buses traveling the roads at the same time as the events, another issue that was raised.

Rizer also said some of those who spoke out against the application live relatively far from his property and so wouldn't be impacted by noise from events and other criticisms raised.

He said his property has four wells on it and that water is ample.

The county planning commission made a site visit to the Rizer property prior to its April 21 meeting..
“We suggested to the Rizers that they contact their neighbors. I regret it doesn't seem to have happened,” Planning Commissioner Bob Lee said.

He said he favored resuming the public hearing in another month. In the meantime, he said, the county staff will develop revised conditions.

The commission voted 4 to 1 to take up the matter in another month. Matthew Smith, the Cedar Run District representative, voted against saying “I don't think this is the right place for this.”

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