Planners OK zoning amendments for boarding schools

MILFORD – The Caroline County Planning Commission has endorsed a small handful of zoning ordinance amendments intended to allow for boarding schools.

The commission unanimously approved all three measures at their regular meeting Wednesday night. They now go to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

The commission held a public hearing on the proposals but received no public comments.

The panel made one last-minute change to one measure, adding a provision that requires schools to submit a security plan when they apply for a special exception permit.

The amendments define boarding schools, allow them in a rural preservation zoning district by a special exception permit, and establish standards for boarding schools.

The standards require a boarding school to have at least 85 acres, a minimum of 250 feet between the property line and improvements and at least a 100-foot natural or landscaped buffer, access to a state-maintained road, and applicable licensing and accreditation.

A boarding school also would have to submit an application that includes the type of curriculum, a description of the student body, a general development plan, and extra-curricular activities.

Commissioners Milton Bush, Bob Fiumara, and “Pete” Davis expressed an interest in making a security plan part of the application process. “I think there should be some kind of security,” said Fiumura. The panel agreed informally to add it.

The proposed zoning amendments, if ultimately approved by the Board of Supervisors, may pave the way to allow Abundant Life Academy a second chance to obtain permission to relocate to Caroline.

The academy, a Christian boarding school in Utah that serves troubled teenagers, sought permission last year to relocate to the Remuda Ranch facility about seven miles east of Sparta.

The Planning Commission recommended approving a special exception permit for the academy, but the Board of Supervisors voted twice by 4-2 to deny the permit.

The property is owned by a corporation, Beverly Run, that is controlled by Hanover County businessman A.D. Whitaker and associates.

Posted on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 2:57 pm