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Wedding crasher: County curbs private business

By   /   April 29, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

HAPPIER DAYS: A couple celebrates their wedding at Eden Try.

By Kenric Ward | Virginia Bureau

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Call off the wedding. Spotsylvania County has imposed “special use permit” restrictions on a couple that’s been hosting marriages for years — effectively nullifying future nuptials at a once-thriving business.

Gary Gratopp, co-owner of Eden Try, said the county crackdown “defies logic.”

Yet the move resembles actions in nearby Fauquier County, where officials are employing permitting requirements to harass and intimidate private-property owners.

Spotsylvania supervisors unanimously approved a proposal that says county staff can issue no more than six “temporary event permits” per year at any one location, according to news reports last week.

The new rule is abusive, says Mark Fitzgibbons, an attorney active in land-use issues.

“What’s the difference between six and eight or 10 events under this notion or protecting the health, safety and welfare of the community?” he asks.

“Such permits appear more and more to be an extortive means to violate private property and First Amendment rights,” Fitzgibbons told

Gratopp, a retired police officer, said Eden Try “uses exactly the same permit as Stevenson Ridge,” which hosts an unlimited number of weddings near Spotsylvania’s Courthouse Road each year.

“Each of our events brings in $20,000 in taxable income to the county,” he told Watchdog.

Because of alleged concerns over what Supervisor David Ross called “noise, traffic, safety, etc.,” Gratopp says other wedding venues along scenic River Road will face similar restrictions.

“They just don’t know it yet,” he said. “The county pushed through these rules without anyone knowing.”

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward



Kenric Ward is the San Antonio-based reporter for A California native and veteran journalist who has worked on three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, he received a BA from UCLA (Political Science/Phi Beta Kappa) and holds an MBA. He reported and edited at the San Jose Mercury News and the Las Vegas Sun before joining in 2012 and has won over 30 journalism awards throughout his career. His work has been published in the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Odessa American, The Monitor, Corsicana Daily Sun, Laredo Morning Times, Palestine Herald-Press, Waxahachie Daily Light, The Orange Leader, the Katy News, Fox News, Townhall, and others. Kenric is a member of the Investigative Reporters & Editors network and can be reached at [email protected]