A recent Fauquier County Board of Supervisor's decision has, for the moment, blocked sprawling residental development in the northern part of the largely rural county.
The board's decision forestalled subdivison development on Cobbler Mountain, six miles from Marshall, Va. The Project was opposed by a powerful Mid Fauquier Association, which has been fighting to keep Fauquier from becoming suburbanized.
The decision was three years in the making and pitted builders W.A. and Jane Mellott -- who bought 375 acres of land on Cobbler Mountain with the idea of subdividing it into five-, 10- and 20-acre plots -- against both the Mid Fauquier Association and an ad hoc group called the Cobbler Mountain Citizens Protective Association, which wanted the land preserved for farming.
The Mellotts had two plans -- one for the mountain side of the property, which they planned to divide into five- and 10-acre lots, and another for subdividing the farmland half of the property. It was the plan for the farmland that aroused neighbors.
"The majority, if not all, the people in our citizen's group are not against growth," said Judith Almquist, secretary of the protective association. "The county's comprehensive plan calls for growth and development in service areas. A subdivision in the middle of farmland is not appropriate. That land should be preserved for farming and for its scenic value."
Early in 1978 the Mellotts bought 375 acres of Cobbler Mountain land which was divided almost in half by a state road and, in August, presented a plan to subdivide the farmland to the planning commission. Neighboring farmers and landowners were, in Almquist's words, "outraged."
The citizens group organized and raised $4,500 to hire a lawyer. The money came from working farmers and housewives, many of whom contributed $200 to $300 a piece, and from some of the wealthier residents in the area.
The citizen's group argued that the road through the property was crooked and dangerous, that the schools would be overcrowded and that there would be inadequate police protection. "We questioned whether the septic system was adequate. We kept up a steady drum beat of reasons why this shouldn't be granted," Vickery said. "It was all delaying tactics."
At a December 1979 Board of Supervisors meeting, the Mellott plan was rejected because of the technical issues the citizen group raised. Mellott, however, refiled a plan which corrected the technical aspects and, at a November 1980 meeting, the Board voted 4 to 1 to accept the subdivision plan if the Mellotts would put up clustered housing.
Though the citizen's group lost on the issue of subdivision development of farmland, they won in practical terms.
"It is not feasible to cluster in that development and come out economically," said Jane Mellott. In March, 1981, the Mellotts sold the 189 acres on the farm side of their holdings to buyers uninterested in development. They have sold some 15 and 25 acre plots from their mountain side holdings and still own a house and 100 acres on Cobbler Mountain.