The owner of Harmony Manor, a substantial hillside home on Clark Lane converted to a B&B by new owners three years ago, is appealing a recent decision by County Administrator Debbie Keyser to revoke the inn’s permit, vehemently contested by neighbors two years ago, to operate with five bedrooms.
The B&B, owned by Arlington resident Randall Fort, has not operated as a B&B since early spring, and is on the real estate market for $1.6 million. Fort’s attorneys notified the county July 20 that he would appeal Keyser’s decision — which still allows the B&B to retain its original permit to operate with three bedrooms — to the Rappahannock County Board of Zoning Appeals. The board is tentatively scheduled to hear the appeal at its Sept. 28 meeting.
Harmony Manor’s permit enlarging the inn’s rentable space was granted in November 2014 by the BZA — after the county planning commission had recommended it be denied, actually, and the majority of Clark Lane’s other residents had banded together to oppose the expansion on the grounds of the traffic burden it would put on the narrow, unpaved right of way that climbs Little Jenkins Mountain near the farmer’s coop on U.S. 211.
The BZA added conditions, to be completed within a year, that the owners build turnouts — areas where vehicles could pull off the roadway and turn around or allow oncoming vehicles to pass — every 300 feet between Harmony Manor and 211. It also required that construction of the additional bedrooms begin within a year, and that VDOT approval of the entrance off 211 be obtained.
As Keyser wrote in a June 20 letter to Fort, “Since the turnouts were not installed, nor was the use of the fourth or fifth bedrooms established, within the one-year period after Nov. 6, 2014, and no extension of time having been granted, your Special Permit has expired. . . . Your third bedroom remains a special permitted use.”
If upheld by the BZA, Keyser’s decision would also render moot a Circuit Court suit, still unresolved, which several neighbors filed challenging that BZA decision in 2014 to increase Harmony Manor’s allowable B&B traffic.
BZA chair Alex Sharp — whose real estate firm listed the Harmony Manor property for sale — said this week that because of the conflict, he will not be participating in any of the BZA’s considerations of Fort’s appeal. He confirmed that Fort has not operated the place as a B&B since early spring of this year.
Harmony Manor is a 10- to 12-bedroom home built about 15 years ago by former Blue Rock Inn owner Gary Harvey, who was cited by the county for illegally using the property (permitted only as a private home) as a hotel and event center. Before Fort and his now-ex-wife Kimberly bought it in 2013, it had sat empty for years while a series of bankruptcy and foreclosure actions played out.