Bodatious Goes To Board

Published 5:15 pm Thursday, April 4, 2013

CUMBERLAND – On a four-three vote, the Cumberland Planning Commission voted to recommend the board of supervisors approve a conditional use permit (CUP) allowing Old Dominion 4-Wheel Drive Club to hold Bodatious motorsports events three weekends a year in northern Cumberland County.

Bodatious motorsports events are hosted by Old Dominion 4-Wheel Drive Club and have been occurring at 405 Boston Hill Road, Cartersville, since the late 1970s, according to a staff report. The weekend event includes off-road racing, a Saturday night concert and the availability of overnight camping. According to the report, events average 500-750 people in attendance per event, with an average of 500 camping.

The March 18 recommendation by the commission is just that, a recommendation. The Cumberland Board of Supervisors will make the final decision regarding the CUP, determining whether to approve or deny it. A public hearing on the Bodatious CUP is scheduled to occur during the supervisor's next regular meeting on April 9.

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This is the first time the Old Dominion 4-Wheel Drive Club has been required to submit an application for a CUP for Bodatious motorsports events. In the past, the County issued yearly festival permits.

If approved by the board of supervisors without changes, the CUP would need to be renewed in four years. However, the CUP states, “Violation of any of these terms and conditions shall, at the sole discretion of the Zoning Administrator, be grounds for revocation of this Conditional Use Permit by the Board of Supervisors.”

The CUP contains over 20 conditions, from noise and lighting to security and alcohol consumption that could potentially be violated.

Chairman William Burger, District Three, voted in favor of recommending the CUP be approved by the board. He summed up the wait-and-see atitittude expressed by other commissioners who also recommended the CUP, stating, “We're recommending…that they get another shot. If they blow it, that's their problem… This is the first time that Bodatious actually has real supervision, because of this conditional use permit…They have to live up to it. The ball's in their court.”

Commissioner Irene Wyatt, At-Large, felt this approach was fair, “I do think the conditions give them a chance and if they… abuse it, then, it's there to shut them down. That's kind of giving them a fair chance, I guess, since they've been there so many years. So, it's up to them now. If the board approves it.”

Those opposed to recommending the CUP referenced the number of neighboring landowners that spoke in opposition during the public hearing held that evening prior to their vote. Commissioner Randy Bryant, District One, the district where the event is located, summed it up, “I couldn't see going against what all the landowners around felt about it at this time, without having more information.”

After reviewing the events consistency with the Comprehensive Plan and County zoning, the staff report on the Bodatious CUP recommended approval, stating, “Limited conditions were placed on past events that were not able to sufficiently address concerns associated with events of this magnitude.

“Staff feels that, with the proposed conditions, this event has the potential to be run in a safe and healthy manner without negatively impacting the neighboring properties or the county as a whole. If conditions are not adhered to, the board would have the authority to revoke the permit.”

The approved resolution recommending the CUP be granted is five pages long and lists over 20 specific conditions the event must meet. In contrast, the previous festival permits for Bodatious were based on a short-answer two-page form. The last festival permit, approved by the board for 2012, included only four conditions relating to the number of security personnel, hours of operation, garbage disposal and identification of attendees, including marking those under 21 years of age entering the event.

Philip Parker Jr. of Parker Consulting, LLC, spoke on behalf of Old Dominion 4-Wheel Drive Club, stating that the organizers did not want a bad reputation for Bodatious; “that's why we have gone through the conversations we've gone through to get to this point to actually file for a conditional use permit…In order [for] everybody to be on the same team and try to provide something that meets, as best it possibly can, everyone's intentions and needs.”


Following Interim County Planner Rachel Falkenstein's presentation of the staff report on the CUP, Bryant asked her the first question of the evening: “Is Cumberland County better protected and more able to enforce these conditions as written than anything previous we had?”

Falkenstein pointed out that previous permits only had four conditions, “This gives the County, I think, a lot more control to monitor what's going on. We have a set of conditions that we can measure activity by. And we definitely have the authority, based on these conditions, to revoke the permit if the conditions are violated.”

Upon further questioning from Bryant, she explained that if she determined there was a violation, she would bring it to the board of supervisors, “it would be up to their sole determination to revoke the permit…”

The draft CUP recommended by the commission and to be considered by the board during their meeting next week includes 22 conditions. Of special concern and discussion during the planning commission's meeting were conditions relating to quiet hours, alcohol consumption, entry into the event, security, spectator safety, liability insurance, permit renewal and revocation of the permit.

The previous festival permit required “one licensed security officer per every 250 attendees.” The proposed CUP seeks to more than double the number of security personnel, requiring “one trained security officer, certified by the local sheriff, per every 100 people.” Falkenstein stated that the security officers would not be at the expense of the County, but of the applicant.

The proposed CUP also beefs up the entry requirements for the event from the previous festival permit, stating that “both hands of individuals under the age of 21 shall be clearly marked with a black permanent marker to indicate they cannot consume alcohol. Staff shall re-mark the hands of individuals if the ink fades over the course of the event.”

Public Hearing

The commissioners vote followed a public hearing which had the potential of being contentious, but was kept in check and managed by Chairman Burger who laid out a schedule of presenters and speakers, including several opportunities to have questions answered.

First, Falkenstein gave a presentation on the staff report regarding the draft CUP. She and County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Giles then answered commissioners' questions regarding the CUP. How the County would enforce compliance of the CUP was a recurring theme.

Parker spoke briefly on behalf of the applicant and answered questions regarding the event and CUP conditions. He argued that the event had raised at least $100,000 for the County, between monies paid to the Sheriff's Office or raised and donated to volunteer fire and rescue departments, since its inception in the late 1970s.

He also wanted to clarify that no alcohol is sold or provided at the event. He stated that the club takes great pride in the event.

Parker said they recognized that there had been a few bad apples, one or two instances, concluding, “It's hard to prevent people from being stupid, but we endeavor to do so.”

Commissioners then asked Parker and other representatives of the club who were present, including club Treasurer Mike Morris, various questions regarding the event and enforcement.

Seven Cumberland citizens were signed up to speak during the public hearing. Five were residents of the Cartersville area who discussed the festival's impact on their nearby properties, Boston Hill Road and themselves. A frequent complaint was with the safety of Boston Hill Road, which is unpaved on one end and is one of two entrances to the event.

The increase in the number of vehicles and their relative large size during event weekends was a considerable problem, many stated.

Leo Henderson says he has been living on the unpaved portion of Boston Hill Road since 2009. He told the commissioners, “My concern is the traffic that goes down that road…It seems like a percentage of them think that when they hit that dirt road they're on the mud track with their big equipment and trailers. And, I'll tell you, as a resident, I just don't appreciate it. I don't mind people having a good time out there, but this is infringing on our comfort and safety.”

Penny Melino, who said she also lives on Boston Hill Road, reiterated what several others said, “the road is dangerous.”

<!– 1upcrlf2 –>Melino said that although VDOT will grade the road before the event, after the event, “if it's rainy…it's really muddy. If it's dry, it's really dusty. And we have to plead with VDOT to come back and grade the road again for us because it's all rutted out. It's dangerous to drive on.”

Falkenstein also read the contents of an email she said she had received from an individual who was opposed to the event.

Two speakers from Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad (CVRS) spoke in support of the event. Operations Captain Bruce Zirkle stated that the event had generated, on average, $10,000 of income for his agency in the past three years just through concessions alone. The CVRS also receives donations from racers, participants and the club itself, he added.

Zirkle also spoke of CVRS' coverage of the event through EMS personnel, “Safety is not an issue.” But, he added, “It's like one gentleman said, 'You can't fix stupid.'”

Tim Baber, president of CVRS confirmed the presence of emergency service personnel on stand-by from the department. Regarding the department's benefit from the event, “that's a big part of our money income to do this event. As an emergency service provider in Cumberland County, we are very much…dependent on that income that is generated from the event in the county.” Baber also stated that he was a participant racer at the event and member of the club.

The commissioners continued to discuss the issue following the hearing, asking questions of both County staff and the applicant. They were especially concerned about how to deal with the complaints regarding Boston Hill Road.

Discussion included the possibility of reducing traffic on the road, contacting VDOT regarding reducing the speed limit on the road or restricting the road for length or tonnage, or having the club help keep the dust down with their equipment.

It was pointed out that it would probably take about a year for a traffic study by VDOT and that the club doing work on the road would most likely be a liability issue.

Enforcement of prevention of underage drinking and a possible additional condition regarding unaccompanied minors was also discussed.

A motion to table the application, allowing time for staff to contact VDOT regarding traffic and dust control issues along Boston Hill Road, was made by Commissioner J. Hubert Allen, District Four. It died because it was not seconded.

A second motion to vote on the CUP, also made by Allen, was followed by a pause as well.

Although the other commissioners seemed reluctant to take a vote, Burger pointed out that their only options were to table the CUP with specific recommendations to staff or vote on it that evening.

Allen moved to recommend the board of supervisors adopt the CUP.

Burger, Wyatt, Allen and Commissioner Larry Atkins, At-Large, were in favor. Bryant, Vice-Chairman Patricia Pedrick, District Two, and Commissioner Roland Gilliam, District Five, were opposed.