The Washington Town Council voted 6-0 to approve everything on the agenda of its regular monthly meeting Monday night (Nov. 10) at the town hall, including the renewal of a special-use permit allowing the White Moose Inn’s manager to live down the block — and another resolution intended to restore the council’s voting membership back to seven.
Minus former council member Dan Spethmann — who resigned a week earlier, citing increasing work-related pressures to be out of town — the council approved the measure for owner Jim Abdo’s hotel operation after a brief discussion and public hearing.
The only speaker among the dozen or so in attendance was Christine Smith of Sperryville, who asked if the conditions attached to the permit — essentially that the hotel remain under Abdo’s Inn at the Ridge LLC ownership — should also include a limit on the number of rooms that could be managed by an employee living off-site. Town attorney John Bennett pointed out that the White Moose Inn’s original special-use permit limited the number of rooms to the current six.
Both vice mayor Gary Schwartz, the ex-innkeeper who sold the former Heritage House B&B to Abdo three years ago and now lives immediately behind the inn, and council member Mary Ann Kuhn, who owns Middleton Inn and said her frequent phone calls to the White Moose are always answered promptly, recommended the permit extension be allowed for another year and revisited next November. A memo from town zoning administrator John McCarthy said his office had received “no complaints, comment or in fact any communication” regarding the White Moose operations.
Mayor John Sullivan, saying “although now is not necessarily the time to discuss this,” said he’d also heard recent suggestions, based on experience over the years with other similar arrangements, that the town amend its zoning ordinance to allow off-site management by any B&B or inn — as long as the manager’s residence is somewhere within the town borders.
The council passed a resolution asking that any residents who want to be considered for appointment to the town council as Spethmann’s replacement submit letters to the council by Dec. 1. Sullivan said the council had already received such a letter from Bradley Schneider, a member of the town’s zoning appeals board, former chair of the county’s economic revitalization committee and a resident of the town for a dozen years.
Sullivan said the council hoped to appoint a new member at its Dec. 8 meeting. A circuit court judge will decide thereafter when a special election would be held to fill the remaining term (which, like all the council members as well as the mayor and treasurer — who also serve on the council — expires in 2018).
The council also unanimously:
• approved a new one-year maintenance and operations contract for Environmental Systems Services (ESS) of Culpeper, the contract operator of the town’s wastewater treatment system since it went online in early 2010. At about $98,000, the contract included a 3-percent increase over last year’s rate;
• approved two treatment-plant-related repair and replacement costs that together will cost less than $5,000, and a $1,600 limit on spending for beverages, supplies and decorations for the town’s Christmas potluck party Dec. 14 at town hall. The party, scheduled the Sunday after the Christmas in Washington parade and townwide celebration on Dec. 7 (an event now sponsored by the Rappahannock Food Pantry), is open to anyone who lives or works “or has any connection” to the town, Sullivan said. Town clerk Laura Dodd is keeper of the what-to-bring list; the town provides the drinks.