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January 25, 2019

Islamic organization pulls application for retreat here

File Photos/Lawrence Emerson
County Chief of Planning Adam Shellenberger and Rafiq Sayed, Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam Inc. USA’s property secretary, discuss the application during a Jan. 16 visit to the site southeast of Warrenton.
The 17,000-member organization planned to buy the farm for $3.8 million and use the property as a permanent home for its events.
Given the outcome of the public hearing AMI has decided to withdraw the application for now and rethink our approach.
— Rafiq Sayed, Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam Inc. USA’s property secretary
Retreat Proposal
• Application: For special exception permit to allow an annual, three-day spiritual retreat for a maximum 5,000 people and up to three, annual three-day events for a maximum 1,000 each at Meetze and Turkey Run roads southeast of Warrenton.

• Site: 515 acres with rural zoning.

• Applicant: Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam Inc. USA, Silver Spring, Md.

• Property owners: Terrina M. Baker and Richard B. Wheeler, Oak Creek Farm LLC.

• History: The county planning commission voted, 5-0, on Thursday, Jan. 17, to recommend board of supervisors’ denial of the permit. Before the vote, 37 speakers addressed the topic at a public hearing before the commission, with 29 opposing the application. Opponents cited concerns about traffic, noise and other effects on the rural area.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Faced with mounting community opposition, a Silver Spring, Md.-based Islamic group Thursday night dropped a proposal to conduct four big annual events on a sprawling farm just southeast of Warrenton.

After a public hearing Thursday, Jan. 17, the Fauquier County Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial of Ahmadiyya Movement Islam Inc. USA’s special exception permit application. The organization sought approval to host a maximum 5,000 people once a year and three events annually for up to 1,000 people on 515.6 acres at Meetze and Turkey Run roads.

The annual events would have lasted three days.

Thirty-seven people spoke at the hearing, with 29 opposing, six supporting the application and two who supported the idea but apparently had no opinion on the site’s suitability for the proposed use.

“Given the outcome of the public hearing, AMI has decided to withdraw the application for now and rethink our approach,” Rafiq Sayed, the nonprofit organization’s property secretary, wrote in a two-sentence email to county Planning Chief Adam Shellenberger.

Mr. Sayed sent the email at 10:44 p.m. Thursday.

The county planning staff early Friday began notifying the board of supervisors, other officials and citizens who spoke at the planning commission public hearing.

The application could have gone to the board of supervisors for a public hearing and decision as early as Thursday, Feb. 14.

Many opponents said they support the idea of the spiritual retreat, which would feature prayer, speakers and food, but consider the scale of the proposed activities incompatible with the predominantly rural and residential area.

Many focused on traffic issues, arguing Meetze Road couldn’t safely handle the additional vehicles the events would attract.

They also raised noise, lighting, property value, water use and wastewater disposal issues related to the proposal.

Some feared the events, if approved, would attract more people than allowed and questioned the county’s ability to enforce that and other conditions of the special exception permit.

After the planning commission public hearing, Mr. Sayed expressed disappointment over the community’s response to the proposal and the commission’s recommendation.

He said the organization would explore its options, which would include withdrawing, modifying and resubmitting the application.

The five-member commission serves as an advisory panel to the supervisors, which would have final authority over the application.

Contact Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-0300.

AppMaterials SOJ AMC-Jalsa by on Scribd

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Cammie Rodgers · January 28, 2019 at 8:44 am
@DonkeyFarmer - "This has nothing to do with religion." Yeah, right? My comment was not spreading hate but truth. I also think it is a bad location for such big events, Meetze Road is not made for that kind of traffic. Why don't you talk to the owners? They don't seem to care about the community, only in it for the money, hard to sell that size of property without zoning changes.
DonkeyFarmer · January 27, 2019 at 10:56 am
@ farmbum, no it literally did not "look good on paper" that's why it was unanimously rejected.
DonkeyFarmer · January 27, 2019 at 10:53 am
@Rover 530, what a hateful thing to say. You disregard all the very relevant reasons this was rejected and just post a snarky hateful comment. Shame on you
DonkeyFarmer · January 27, 2019 at 10:49 am
@Cammie Rodgers The argument against this had nothing to do with religion. Were you at the public hearing? Do you understand the concerns of the neighbors? Having 5,000 people gathering in a muddy field for 3 days? Seems like the only people bringing up religion are the ones in favor of this festival. After the planning commission chair told everyone at the hearing they are not allowed to bring up religion, the Ahmadiyya spokesperson promptly spoke for 10 minutes about their religion. He did not bring up issues of traffic, noise, and disruption to the neighbors except to say they would make less disturbance "than a rooster," which is ridiculous to say and shows they are not taking this seriously. Every person in favor of this speaks only about religion, they do not address the concerns of the community. Every comment I have seen from people that are for this speak about religion. This has nothing to do with religion. Stop spreading hate.
Cammie Rodgers · January 26, 2019 at 4:49 pm
"The AMC spans over 200 nations with membership exceeding tens of millions. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA (est. 1920) is America’s largest Muslim organization under one leader." I'm wondering if had been a Christian organization would people have been as upset over the short notice and such big event programs? Like we need any more Christian churches, can't fill the ones already here.
farmbum · January 26, 2019 at 7:53 am
Unfortunately, Fauquier only has cheap land. Looks good on paper, but we lack infrastructure to support influxes of people.
We downgraded the Catlett Service District a while back.... we just cannot figure out how to attract and build up our county to support anything but what we have.

Rover 530 · January 25, 2019 at 10:58 am
I guess they were afraid of the fire and pitchforks.
FauquierRuralLiving · January 25, 2019 at 10:39 am
Considering the neighbor and community concerns, one would think the applicant would’ve put forth a more thorough application plan with better details? The extent of their community outreach was a notice letter two days late and reading Facebook troll comments from people who aren’t even directly impacted. Then show up at the planning commission saying this is their introduction to the county community? They need to work on their PR. If they had made the genuine attempt to talk to the neighbors in December, they could have had a better reception and people would not have been as defensive. They only have themselves to blame on how the optics and situation developed.
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