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On Friday, January 14, 2005, the Supreme Court of Virginia handed down its decision in the Barboursville case reversing Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Bouton and ruling that the Circuit Court erred in holding that the Orange County Zoning Ordinance permitted General Shale's proposed mining access road as an accessory use in the limited residential district incident to the special use permit for mining in the agricultural district.

See news story, and watch this site for more details as they become available.

Supreme Court of Virginia Grants Appeal in General Shale Lawsuit

(see news story)

On Wednesday, May 8 2002, Friends of Barboursville (FoB) and 37 individual complainants filed suit against the Orange County Board of Supervisors and General Shale, challenging the decision made by the Board of Supervisors to grant a Special Use Permit to General Shale. The permit would allow the company to conduct an open-pit shale mine on a 139-acre parcel of land in Barboursville.

The lawsuit charges that the county's decision to issue the permit was arbitrary and capricious, and that the permit violates the county's zoning ordinances. After more than a year, the case went to trial on September 25, 2003, in Orange County Circuit Court.

After half a day in court, Judge Daniel Bouton stopped the proceedings in order to consider motions made by General Shale and Orange County.

Six weeks later, on November 7, Judge Bouton unexpectedly ruled from the bench, dismissing he lawsuit. This move left many of those involved in the case to find out about the ruling through the news media.

Judge Bouton ruled that the Orange County code allows "accessory uses" to go across zoning boundaries when a parcel of land has two zones. In this case, part of the property is zoned agricultural and part residential. The judge ruled that General Shale's hauling operation through the residential zone (16,200 dump truck loads of material per year) was allowable because it was an accessory use to the work that the company would be doing on the agricultural-zoned part of the property.

The complainants had argued that this position was not in accordance with either state or county law. State law clearly holds that zoning ordinances must be uniform throughout each zone. Allowing uses in split-zoned lots that are not allowed in single-zone lots would violate this requirement of the Virginia code.

Further, the complainants argued that the section of the county code dealing with Special Use Permits does not grant accessory uses at all. Accessory uses are only granted for by-right uses. In the case of special use permits, the code clearly intends that all uses must be explicitly spelled out. (Click here to see the relevant sections of state and county law.)

On June 15, 2004, the Supreme Court of Virginia agreed to hear an appeal of Judge Bouton's decision. The complainants feel very confident that they of will prevail at the Supreme Court level.

On April 9, 2002, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 1 to approve a Special Use Permit allowing strip-mining at a site near Barboursville, Virginia. This decision, if it is allowed to stand, will have a devastating effect on the area. The proposed mine site is surrounded by dozens of families' homes. It will be detrimental to many businesses that depend on the area's thriving tourist economy. It will put a scar in the middle of one of the state's most beautiful historic landscapes. We extend our sympathy to all those whose homes and businesses have been condemned by this arbitrary and capricious decision. We have not given up, and will continue to fight on your behalf.

Click here to find out how you can help!


Click for Larger Aerial Pictures
Aerial view of the proposed mine site and surrounding community. (Move mouse over picture for a look at the possible future.)
General Shale, a brick-making company owned by an Austrian conglomerate, has applied for a Special Use Permit (SUP) to strip-mine 89 acres of a 139-acre parcel near Barboursville. The site, which General Shale calls "isolated", is surrounded by the homes of about 50 families, many of whom have owned their property for over 100 years. Some of these houses lie within 70 feet of the proposed 50-foot deep excavation. The nearest of these are in Careytown, a predominantly African-American community. Many of the residents of Careytown are descendants of the slaves who worked on nearby plantations, and whose families have owned this land since emancipation.

The proposed mining operation would send 30-50 dump truck loads of material per day from the site out onto the quiet, residential, and narrow route 738, across a railroad crossing and up route 20 to an existing brick manufacturing plant in Somerset. The Virginia Department of Transportation has recommended extensive road work to accommodate this heavy industrial traffic.

Click for Larger Picture
Topographic model of proposed mine site, after excavation.
Barboursville is one of the anchors of the Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District (National Register of Historic Places), which Virginia's Department of Historic Resources calls "one of Virginia's most intact cultural landscapes". In this area lie some of Orange County's most popular tourist attractions, the Barboursville Winery (site of the ruins of the Barbour mansion, designed by Thomas Jefferson, home of Governor James Barbour), the Horton Winery and the Nichols Gallery. Barboursville is also home to the Four County Players, central Virginia's longest running community theater. At the other end of the district lies Montpelier, home of James Madison. Near the Barboursville end of the district, General Shale proposes to level 89 acres, turning the material of these rolling hills into bricks.

See the links on the left of this page for more information about some of the issues raised by the proposed mining operation.


Contact Your Government!

"It would be too cruel an irony...that the descendants of the same slaves who made bricks at Barboursville and Burlington should have their property degraded and their lives intruded upon by a commercial clay mine."
-- Mary Ann French

State Asks for Uranium Testing at General Shale Site

Signs Vandalized Around Barboursville


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General Shale/Wienerberger Mine
Modified Monday, 18-Apr-2005 18:34:21 UTC