EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT/County’s actions create an international hero
John Thoburn is not the guy I want leading my patriot parade. He is — um, well, okay, let’s call a spade a spade here — a loon whose family has been a thorn in the side of Virginia’s upscale Fairfax County since before potato chips came in flavors. But recent occurrences have turned Thoburn into an international property rights hero, and Fairfax County shoulders the blame.
The trouble started when Thoburn decided to build a golf driving range on his Reston property. The county said “No problem.” Then it imposed certain conditions — 25 of them to be exact. The conditions included reasonable measures like planting trees and building a berm to shield the range from nearby residential property, as well as the magnificent expanse of the Dulles Toll Road, which runs adjacent to Thoburn’s property.
It also included nonsensical demands: Thoburn could sell roast beef sandwiches but not microwaved hot dogs; he could sell Cokes in cans or bottles but not in cups; he could have the world’s biggest stereo system but not an antique Wurlitzer jukebox.
Thoburn spent $125,000 to plant the county-mandated trees and build the county-mandated berm. That wasn’t good enough, however. The county determined that the trees weren’t planted right and the berm wasn’t the right height — even though no one at the county could tell Thoburn exactly what constituted the right height. It demanded that Thoburn spend another $30,000 to move what it considered “misplaced trees.”
Understandably, Thoburn balked. So, at the county’s insistence, the amazingly appropriately named Judge Michael McWeeny tossed Thoburn in the pokey. There he sat for 97 days before the judge, apparently realizing the folly of keeping a man in jail for what was basically a zoning violation, let him go with the proviso that the county be able to plant its demanded trees and bill Thoburn for its trouble.
The morning after Thoburn was sprung, the county’s Garden Gestapo stormed his driving range to — get this — uproot cedar and pear trees and replace them with pines. It also left him a bill, which he says he will not pay.
According to the Washington Post, Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald Connolly insisted the county’s actions were reasonable. “I believe we need to bring this sorry episode to a speedy conclusion,” the paper quoted Connolly as saying. The county insists that the flood of negative e-mails with which county supervisors have been inundated had nothing to do with Thoburn’s release. I am sure that is true.
Just as sure as I am of the fact that the existence of a nearby, county-owned golf course had nothing to do with Thoburn’s problems.