Letter to Commissioners and Supervisors (July 5, 2018)

Francis J. & Brenda V. Mastaler
4728 Captain John Smith Road
Williamsburg, VA 23185

5 July 2018

Ms. Kelli Le Duc, Planning Manager
New Kent, VA 23124

Ms. Le Duc,

I sent you an email dated 13 June, communicating, in very brief terms, my strong opposition to Curtis CUP-02-18 and asked that it be disseminated to the members of the planning commission. The reason for this letter today is to share why my husband and I are vehemently against permitting this or any commercial combat training facility in this community and/or county. You may question why we care as you will note we do not reside in Barhamsville. We are, however, NKC taxpayers. I am one of 3 family partners comprising the LLC that owns properties in Barhamsville. Our land includes a 320-acre farm located at 5871 Farmers Drive (Tax Map 38-77) farmed by Barhamsville natives and a 54-acre mill pond (Goddin’s Mill Pond) on Holly Fork Road (tax Maps 38-78 & 79) adjacent The Monastery of Bethlehem Poor Clares. These properties we have the privilege of owning were passed down to us from our parents. The land and pond have been in this family since the 1800’s. Our commitment is the same as each generation before us, to love the land, appreciate it and its abundant resources, to protect and care for it, and to be good neighbors. Our promise is to preserve this legacy to pass it down to our children for future generations to enjoy as we do. My family lived, farmed, and worshipped in Barhamsville. This was their home. They were strong contributing members of this rural community and NKC. Several generations rest in the Tabernacle Memorial Cemetery. Our family property is a place we go to hunt, fish, walk in the woods and garden. I cannot recall ever hearing anything but the ‘peace and quiet’ of the country. We have never once been concerned about our safety, let alone our grandchildren’s safety, when they accompany my husband to the farm and pond. So, yes, this community, the folks who live here, work here, have their businesses and our family land are all of critical importance to us.

It is incomprehensible to think this facility could even be a consideration in light of the Comprehensive Plan of NKC and the NKC Code, Article XIX, Section 98, dated 3 May 2018. It does not make sense to take 266 acres of farm and woodland for the purpose of establishing a commercial facility to train clients in counter-terrorism /force protection, tactical driving and firearm skills right in the heart of a rural community surrounded by homes and farm and woodland. This type of facility is clearly not compatible with the surrounding land uses (homes, farms, Equestrian Centers, Vineyard, and Winery). No type of architectural design and landscaping will blend large commercial buildings, roadways, and firing ranges into the natural rural landscape. This facility will not add beauty to the county and will never be a good neighbor. It is disturbing to think the majority of the described structures will not be used and would be rented to undisclosed tenants. Who are those prospective tenants? Who monitors their activities and ensures they operate IAW established regulations and policies? Who, specifically, are the Curtis clients? What Department of Defense entities have contracted with Curtis Securities to provide training? What private corporations will utilize their services and where are they headquartered? Where will their students originate? The facility appears no more than a training site for paid personnel to protect or fight in foreign countries. What is the Curtis agenda? Is Curtis Securities constructing this facility to sell? Perhaps to a foreign client. If this is the first combat training center venture for Curtis Securities, what assurance do we have that the ranges and structures have been planned, designed, and would be constructed and operated IAW the plethora of Department of Defense publications? What qualifies Curtis Securities to operate and manage this facility? While many of these questions probably have no immediate answers they are still questions to think about in addition to evaluating the merits of the basic proposal. This community deserves answers.

The proposal is devoid of facts and is designed using very broad generalizations. It is laced with unrealistic assumptions that clearly never considered the surrounding community and the impact it would have on the citizens, their homes, their safety, their businesses and their quality of life. One of many examples of this is reflected in item 2, when it is stated NKC is a working community with citizens away from their homes during training hours. The assumption is the community works and therefore would not be bothered by the noise during work hours. No consideration was given to the fact there are residents who do not leave their homes during the day. Likewise, night time training and training on Saturdays was conveniently dismissed. It demonstrates a total disregard for and insensitivity to the Barhamsville residents and business owners. The very businesses that contribute significantly to the wealth of this county selected Barhamsville as their choice because of its beautiful landscape, tranquility and rural nature, believing they would never have to fight to safeguard their homes and businesses. Because of the nature of their operations they could be forced to close their doors if this facility were to be approved. Families looking to purchase property to build here because of its rural peace will turn outside the county. Families who have been here for generations, as well as those who have established their homes/businesses here will have to endure the unceasing sounds of daily and nightly gunfire and explosives, sacrificing the peace they have known and expect. Citizens will not learn to cope with high noise levels. They will live in perpetual fear of errant munitions firing from the shooting ranges, knowing a round could fatally injure a farmer in his field or tending livestock, a rider on horseback at a nearby equestrian center, a sportsman hunting or fishing on adjacent properties, or a child playing in the woods. Stray bullets know no boundaries. Noise levels don’t stop at property lines.

The cost to the county for such a facility will not only become a taxpayer burden, but based on the proposal, it stands to grossly impact the county resources over time. The bottom line is this facility would become a burden on the county tax payer with regards to decreased property values, the NKC infrastructure (roads, public services), and a significant drain to the county natural resources. Perhaps the facility would not impact NKC public services today when much of the facility would be unused, but how will the facility impact the county when it is fully utilized? The statement in item 7 indicating this facility would benefit the county as a whole by providing a place for county fire, rescue, and law enforcement to train is humorous, as such training would come with a price to the county and its taxpayers.

We look to you, our Planning Commissioner, the fellow members of the Commission and the Board of Supervisors to closely scrutinize this proposal, keying in on the generalizations, inconsistencies, contradictions, and unsubstantiated declarations. Please listen to what the citizens are saying, from the technical and personal perspectives. Please continue to protect the rural integrity of this community and our county and support the citizens in defending their homes, businesses, and rural way of life.

Thank you for the opportunity to air our personal concerns. We ask that you share this with your fellow commissioners and the Board of Supervisors.

Frank and Brenda Mastaler