Clarification: The land noted in a story in Friday's edition about an illegal dump in Warren County is not owned by Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Front Royal Blue Ridge Shadows or the Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club.
By Alex Bridges
Warren County doesn't have a new dump on U.S. 340-522.
But the large pile of trees, concrete and other debris on the site of Blue Ridge Shadows across from Toray Drive may look like the beginnings of a landfill. County officials say this violates local rules for trash disposal.
Blue Ridge Shadows LLC stands charged with prohibited disposal of waste and accumulation of refuse -- both misdemeanor criminal offenses. No one representing Blue Ridge Shadows appeared for a scheduled hearing in Warren County General District Court on Wednesday. Zoning Administrator Erick Moore said Thursday that has been the case in many of the court dates over the past two years.
Blue Ridge Shadows is now listed as a "fugitive" in the court system.
Moore said he visited the site last week and again on Tuesday and saw new material on the pile.
"You cannot create a landfill without state and county approval," Moore said.
Construction projects often create debris piles, Moore noted. However, county code requires all material in such piles be removed from the site within 15 days. Specifically, the code describes the accumulation of refuse "contrary to public policy" except during periods of construction, alteration or repairs performed under a building permit.
"When you're doing construction work, you're going to have scrap material," Moore said. "But when it's done, it's gotta go."
While some building projects use construction debris as filler, Moore said he understood that materials seen in the pile couldn't be used. State regulations dictate exactly what materials are allowable as filler. Debris also has been blamed for creating shrink-swell soil that posed major problems in the Northern Virginia area years ago, Moore said.
County land records show Blue Ridge Shadows owns several vacant parcels of land along U.S. 340-522 north of the Holiday Inn and Suites. The debris has accumulated at the end of the unfinished portion of Hospitality Drive across from Toray Drive.
The Planning and Zoning Department started to receive complaints in February 2012 about debris accumulating on the vacant lots.
"When I went down there in 2012 it was being used as a landfill," Moore said.
The pile includes vegetative waste -- trees, logs, branches and grass -- mixed with construction materials such as asphalt and concrete.
"I don't know where this concrete came from but there is tons of it," Moore said.
The county moved forward to try to get the owner to remove the debris. That effort has dragged on for more than two years in part because the developer of Blue Ridge Shadows filed for bankruptcy.
"This thing has been in bankruptcy so much and it's a bounce-back-and-forth of responsibilities," Moore said.
The registered agent for Blue Ridge Shadows in early 2012 was identified as John Hopkins III, Moore said. Hopkins, of McGaheysville, is still on records as the owner of the two lots in question. Hopkins was not available for comment Thursday. Joseph Silek, a Front Royal attorney representing Hopkins, also was not available for comment.
Assistant County Attorney Dan Whitten began filing show cause motions in an attempt to get Hopkins to appear in court.
"Here's the disturbing thing: They're continuing to dump there," Moore said. "Obviously it's under Mr. Hopkins control. He owns the property."
Whitten said Hopkins has indicated he did not know he still owned the property and thought it belonged to a bank. Hopkins remains responsible for cleaning up the site and abiding by the county regulations if and when the property ownership transfers, Whitten said. The attorney said a judge issued a bench warrant for Hopkins' arrest. Hopkins would face a fine but no jail time if found guilty of violating the county regulations, Whitten said.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org