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Oracle vs. Grayson: The other side of the story

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GUEST EDITORIAL

By Lewis and Joanie Walker of Independence When Laura George presented her proposed project, the Oracle Retreat Center, to the Grayson Board of Supervisors for approval on June 10, 2010, freedom of speech was exercised by 28 citizens. Sixteen others voiced their views through letters and phone calls. Though many of the remarks by local people expressed opposition on religious grounds, the board declined the project based on common sense building principles. Is the road through George’s property accessible by emergency vehicles? Will adequate water be available for fire emergency vehicles as well as for general usage on site? Would buildings on the site adversely affect the view shed of the New River? Does George’s site plan provide enough parking for participants in her programs? Would the project negatively affect adjoining properties’ values? Perhaps the Grayson Planning Commission should have determined the answers to these and other practical questions during their own session with George prior to the board meeting. Emergency access, lighting issues, view shed factors, roadway widths, and neighborhood impacts needed to be studied. If the planning commission had thoroughly investigated the project, it might have rejected it. Chairman Larry Bartlett, in the minutes of the supervisors’ meeting of June 20, stressed that approval of George’s application for the special use permit would not be determined on religious grounds. In fact, George’s application was for rural commercial recreational zoning, not for religious or church-related zoning. The minutes also record no references to, or questions about, Ms. George’s religious affiliations by board members. So, why is the Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, a civil liberties group, coloring its client George’s suit against the Grayson Board of Supervisors with a religious discrimination brush? Could it be for notoriety, prestige, or simply money? Also, why did a newspaper’s editorial state that George previously sued Grayson County to block the initial site chosen for a state prison? A review of court records shows no such suit. The facts are clear. Local residents voiced opposition to the Oracle Institute’s proposed project for multiple reasons: loss of neighboring property values, sound and light incursions, view shed, fencing along adjoining property lines, safe traffic access, and that the project is anti-Christian. Religious issues were by no means the only objections made by citizens. In the final unanimous vote, the supervisors rejected the project based on zoning laws created to protect public safety, health, and general welfare of the residents of Grayson County. Our citizens can be assured that their board of supervisors acted intelligently and fairly as they governed Grayson County in this situation. Undoubtedly, the courts of Grayson County and our nation will agree with the board’s ruling.