Wedding crasher: County curbs private business


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 or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward