Chester Gap tourist home approved

Planners make permit contingent on purchase contract  

At its regular meeting last Wednesday (Aug 19), the Rappahannock County Planning Commission approved an application from Pete Pazmino and Sheila Lamb for a tourist home in Chester Gap.

The commission also conducted a two-year review of a special-use permit granted in 2013 to Beth Hall to operate a B&B in Flint Hill, ultimately approving it as well. And it heard a presentation on Culpeper County’s Geographic Information System (GIS) by Pam Schiermeyer, the county’s GIS coordinator (more about GIS in next week’s paper).

Pazmino and Lamb applied in July for a special-use permit to turn a house they plan to buy near their own home in Chester Gap into a tourist home. According to the application, it would cater to couples or singles looking for “a not-too-remote getaway that offers reliable broadband internet and foot access to the Appalachian Trail, as well as easy access to the rest of Rappahannock County, Front Royal and the broader Shenandoah area.”

As writers themselves, Pazmino and Lamb plan to market to other writers and artists seeking a retreat or studio space. The home would offer no services typical in B&Bs, such as meals, and would be for short-term rentals only — a few days or a long weekend.

The 500-square-foot home was built by its present owners, Ray and Sherrie Holland, now living in South Carolina, to house visiting family and friends. The Hollands submitted an email agreeing to sell the property to Pazmino and Lamb on approval of the special use permit.

Wakefield district commissioner Jason Brady asked about the property’s location and proximity to where Pazmino and Lamb live. “The house is two streets away away from us,” said Pazmino. “In addition, I work from home, so I’m always available” if an issue arises. When Jackson district’s Raymond Brown asked if neighbors of the property had voiced any objections,  Pazmino said that he had spoken with the closest neighbor, who supported the proposal.

Ron Frazier, the supervisors’ representative on the commission, and vice chairman Gary Light of Stonewall-Hawthorne asked about the property itself, including date of construction, signage and septic system. Pazmino said that the house, about 10 years old, is well constructed and has its own septic system. Pazmino plans to add signage, so that visitors will know they are at the right place. The house, sitting on a one-acre lot composed of what had been four smaller lots, has off-street parking and is screened from neighbors.

The topic of greatest interest, raised by Hampton district’s Alvin Henry, was the question of who, if anyone, had standing to make the application. He said the Hollands are not applying for the special use permit themselves, and Pazmino and Lamb do not yet own the property. Commission chairman Gary Settle said, “Well, the issue for me is, does the variance go with the property or the owner?”

“I think Mr. Henry has brought up a really good point,” Frazier said. “If you’re not really the tenant, then you have no standing. If you don’t have a contract to purchase, then you have no standing. And the owner didn’t sign anything, just sent an email.”

The members discussed the possibility of approving the application contingent on the purchase, and then if the Board of Zoning Appeals did not approve the application (the board was to consider it at its meeting Wednesday night, Aug. 26, after press time for this edition), it would be null and void. Henry asked about about the timeline for a sale, saying it probably wouldn’t close until 2016. Pazmino said the couple had “immediate plans to buy the property.”

“We have discussed price,” he continued. “The Hollands wanted to list the house on the market last month to get the peak times for house shopping, but deliberately held off so they could go forth with this sale.”  

Deputy County Administrator Debbie Keyser told the commission that County Administrator John McCarthy recommended approval, as there would be minimal impact on neighbors. In the public comment period, Bill Freitag of Hampton district said, “This sounds pretty cut and dried. I suggest the permit be approved.”

The commission voted to approve the special use permit, but made it contingent on Pazmino and Lamb bringing a signed contract to the zoning board.

Hall’s B&B permit approved

The commission revisited Beth Hall’s request for a special use permit to run a B&B. Hall was not present at the meeting. In July of 2013, Hall was granted the permit contingent on a two-year review because of objections raised by her neighbors, several of whom had expressed their concern that the potential B&B would create a disturbance.

The main concern for the commissioners at the time, however, was the size of the right-of-way leading to Hall’s house. The county’s zoning ordinance calls for a right-of-way that’s at least 50 feet wide; Hall’s is only 20 feet. It’s the BZA’s responsibility, McCarthy said, to determine whether that distance is too narrow.

In the two years since the contingent permit was approved, no complaints against the B&B had been lodged. The permit was approved.

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