Affordable apartments at former Emporium site?

• Supervisors hear sheriff’s (and other) budget updates Nov. 17

• Pen Druid Brewing Co. plans brewpub at Copper Fox Antiques

Rappahannock County’s supervisors and planners appear to be heading into Thanksgiving and the holidays beyond with their plates already full.

Update on the planning commission vote here.

At the top of the planning commission’s unusually crowded agenda next Wednesday night: A special-use permit application by People Inc., the county’s designated community-action organization, which is proposing to build a 24- to 28-unit affordable-housing apartment complex at the site of the former Sperryville Emporium on U.S. 211 west of the village.

The agenda also includes a special-exception permit application by brothers Van, Jennings and Lain Carney, who want to open a brewery and brewpub in the Copper Fox Antiques building on the Thornton River in Sperryville. (It actually would be Sperryville’s second brewery; see page B1 if you’re confused.)

The supervisors, meanwhile, have extra budget-related work to do — work related to the state’s own fiscal belt-tightening as well as to the sheriff’s office’s staffing adjustments after county prisoners moved July 1 from the local jail to the new Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail in Front Royal.

The apartments

 photo by pam owen

Bryan Phipps, development director for the Abingdon-based People Inc., said Wednesday that the community organization is still formulating its plans for the 11-acre Emporium site, which has been vacant for most of the year and most recently on the market for $799,000.

The organization, which has long experience through the state in securing Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) and other funds to build below-market housing, submitted its application to the planning commission for 28 units in three two-story structures. The existing structures, Phipps said, would most likely be demolished.

County Administrator John McCarthy said the project is the largest housing structure ever proposed in Rappahannock. Phipps said the organization has not yet conducted the housing market study that accompanies such proposals.

People Inc. is the same organization that proposed in 2012 to adapt the old Washington schoolhouse into a 17-unit apartment building, about half the units designated as low- to moderate-income. Several months of heated debate at town hall ended when a group of local investors bought the building from the Child Care and Learning Center, which owned it. The group included mayor John Sullivan, then-councilman Dan Spethmann and Harris Hollow resident Bill Walton (who is now a minority owner of this newspaper).

Phipps said the Emporium opportunity came to People Inc. “by referral,” and that, if the county’s planning commission and board of zoning appeals approve — as McCarthy has recommended, contingent on agreement by VDOT and the Rappahannock County Water and Sewer Authority — the apartments could be ready for renters by the end of 2016.

He said the current plan — which will be submitted for VHDA financing consideration next spring if the county approves the permit — is for 100 percent of the units to be rented to occupants whose income is 60 percent (or less) of the local median family income (the MFI being a standard U.S. Housing and Urban Development index).

Rappahannock County’s estimated 2014 MFI is about $82,000.

McCarthy said the site is on Sperryville’s sewer system, and, if the planners recommend approval, the People Inc. application would go to the board of zoning appeals, which next meets Dec. 4.

The sheriff’s budget

As it first did at the supervisors’ October meeting, the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office budget came up at the supervisors’ last monthly meeting Nov. 4, when — after McCarthy told the board that he’d received requested staffing and budget information from Sheriff Connie C. Smith but hadn’t yet properly analyzed it — the supervisors agreed to meet at a public budget work session.

That session is 1:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 17) at the courthouse.

McCarthy said this week that he and Smith had already met, and that his worries — that the sheriff’s office’s salary and benefits expenses were still not low enough to compensate for the RSW Jail debt service that will kick in next July 1 — have lessened. He said he would also be presenting the supervisors at the Nov. 17 meeting with specifics on the various state-funded programs that were “pulled back” by Richmond after tax-collection shortfalls came to light this summer.

The brewery

McCarthy also has recommended approval for the Carneys’ application for a special-exception permit to build the Pen Druid Brewing Company, a commercial brewery and brewpub. The open-daily operation would be at the eastern end of the sprawling Copper Fox Antiques center — a facility owned by local real estate agent Alex Sharp (who is also a member of the planning commission).

Pen Druid, according to the application submitted to McCarthy’s office by the LLC’s attorney, Michael Brown, would be open seven days a week from 10 to 7 p.m. (until 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday), and would employ two full-time employees and four part-timers, plus the Carney brothers and their spouses.

The operation aims to produce 5,000 barrels, for both on-site consumption and off-site distribution to retailers, in its first year — a figure that would increase, Brown’s letter says, to 14,500 barrels by its third year. [Editor’s Note: Blaming a misplaced decimal, Brown corrected these figures at the planning commission meeting to 500 barrels the first year and 1,450 by year three.]

The brewery application, if approved by the planning commission next Wednesday, would go before the supervisors at their Dec. 1 meeting.

The planning commission meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 19) at the courthouse. The board of zoning appeals’ Thanksgiving-delayed meeting is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4 at the courthouse, and the supervisors meet there Dec. 1, most likely at both 2 and 7 p.m.

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Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 537 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.