Town funds cleanup, weighs B&B dinner changes

At its monthly meeting Monday (May 13) the Washington Town Council agreed to support RappFLOW’s cleanup project at Avon Hall, filled a vacancy on the Architectural Review Board and considered allowing bed and breakfasts to serve dinner to non-boarders.

In April, the council heard a presentation from Rappahannock Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed (RappFLOW) members which outlined a multi-year plan to renovate and beautify the pond and surrounding areas at Avon Hall, the former estate left to the town by the late William Carrigan.

As council member Dan Spethmann pointed out Monday, those plans are already underway, with much of the grass trimmed and some of it removed (for areas to be seeded with perennial and annual plants). Spethmann said the seeding has actually already begun, with a local contractor hired to properly spread the herbicides.

Spethmann added that additional plans include laying the foundation for a natural meadow and placing aquatic plants in the pond in an effort to help clean the water.

The town received several grants to put toward this project, Spethmann said, including $3,500 from the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District to be paid to the town when the project is finished.

“The goal is to do this as cost effectively as possible,” Spethmann said, noting that, after the initial cost of clean-up, the completed project will actually be less costly and work-intensive than to maintain than the current version of Avon Hall.

The council unanimously agreed (7-0) to earmark $3,500 – the amount of the eventual CSWCD grant – for the restoration.

The council also voted to appointed John MacPherson to the ARB in place of Michelle Schwartz. MacPherson, who owns and operates the Foster Harris House with his wife, Diane, was one of two applicants for the position.

“I’m tickled pink that people want get involved,” said Spethmann – a sentiment echoed by the rest of the council members. Mayor John Fox Sullivan “pretty enthusiastically” recommended McPherson for the position.

Sullivan also took a moment to recognize ARB chairman Kevin Adams, who resigned this week since he is moving beyond the town limits and will thus be unable to continue in his current position (his replacement has not yet been found).

“I think being the head of the ARB is one of the hardest jobs in the town because you have a set of standards to maintain . . . [and] you’re dealing with friends and neighbors who’d like to hear the word ‘Yes,’ ” said Sullivan. “You’ve done it with class and grace and you will be missed.”

Lastly, at MacPherson’s request, the council began discussing the possibility of allowing B&Bs to serve dinner to customers who aren’t also currently paying for lodging. MacPherson, who recently renovated his B&B’s kitchen to allow the Foster Harris House to serve dinner to its lodgers, said he spoke to County Administrator John McCarthy on the matter.

McCarthy said that while the county ordinance allows B&Bs to serve dinner to outside guests, the town’s ordinance only allows dinner to be served to overnight guests at that establishment. Changing this would require the council to either recommend the town’s planning commission issue a special-use permit or revise the town’s ordinance.

MacPherson said he had no plans to operate as a restaurant, and would restrict the maximum number of diners (including overnight guests) to a maximum of 10 people. MacPherson said he’d likely use an email chain to inform people of the number of seats available on a certain night.

“We’d like to open it up to the county when we’re not full,” said MacPherson. “I think it’d be great for the town to keep people and give them a chance to settle in a bit more.”

Flint Hill innkeeper Phil Irwin voiced his support of the MacPhersons’ proposal, calling it a “natural extension” of the already-approved purpose of a B&B. Irwin did, however, echo some of the council’s concern that, if approved, the term “bed and breakfast” would no longer strictly apply and a new definition would be needed.

“It’s important not to consider this is isolation,” said council member and Inn at Little Washington proprietor Patrick O’Connell (whose establishment has long been classified as a hotel, which can serve meals to anyone). “Whatever we do for one B&B, we’ll have to do for all of them.”

“It’s kind of like farmland – once you give it up, you can’t get it back,” added vice-mayor Gary Schwartz.

Council member Mary Ann Kuhn (proprietor of the Middleton Inn B&B) suggested the creation of a new category that would allow dinner to be served, but recommended first that the council meet with town attorney John Bennett (who was absent from Monday’s meeting), McCarthy and the planning commission.

A work session on the matter is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 4 at the courthouse.