Richmond County’s Board of Supervisors, once again, concluded that they’re not going to make special septic system exceptions for the Amish and Mennonite communities.

Last month, elders from the Amish community called on the board of supervisors to reconsider the ban on vault privies. John Parr, the supervisor for District 2, then asked that the matter be placed on the agenda for this month. 

Although the board debated for months before ultimately banning vault privies, Parr said he wanted to bring it back up after he read the elders’ letter, which explained their desire to have vault privies was to strictly to uphold the tradition for their schools. 

Parr noted that they are not asking to have vault privies in their houses or their stores. And even though it sounds primitive, it’s a safe disposal system. He pointed out that the Amish and Mennonite communities are attracting attention from outsiders. “And if you want to see their way of life, it’s my opinion that we should keep it as traditional as possible…So, I wanted to bring this back for discussion to see if we could approve vault privies for these folks,” Parr said.

Chairman Lee Sanders, said they had already beat this issue to death and regardless of the intention, vault privies do not meet the building code.

“Are we going to let the Amish do what they want?” he asked.

Parr pointed out that the county makes other exceptions. And District 3 Supervisor William Herbert asked whether the county could legally change the code so it specified that vault privies were allowed only for Amish and Mennonite schools. “That could eliminate everything else,” he said. 

“I don’t think we can specify that,” said Hope Mothershead, director of planning and zoning. She said the zoning ordinance needs to be for all. And the county probably will not go the route of making zoning regulations that cater to just one community.

Richard Thomas, supervisor for District 1, said that while he was never completely opposed to vault privies, he didn’t like the idea of selective regulations. “I certainly don’t think you want to start doing something for one specific group and not intend it for all.” 

“As much as I would like to help that community, I don’t see how we can do it,” said Herbert. “So, I think we should just move on.”