The Rappahannock County Planning Commission at its regular meeting Nov. 16 considered an application for a tourist home, rebuffed a request for feedback about a prospective tourist home, and continued a months-long process of amending the definitions of “transient occupancy” in the county’s zoning ordinance.
Charlotte Taylor, owner of a house on On the Edge Lane outside little Washington, applied for a special use permit to run her property as a tourist home when she is traveling or in her second home in Charlottesville, according to her application.
She told the commissioners that as a former tourist consultant, she researched the amount of lodging in the county. “There are 22 B&Bs,” she said, “representing 102 rooms, 30 of which belong to the Inn. For the last six years, I have been the PR chair for the art tour. This year more than a thousand people attended the art tour. The artists and the county could make more money if tourists could spend the night.”
Discussion among the commissioners focused on two areas: whether Taylor’s neighbors had been properly notified of her intentions, and the potential impact on Taylor and the road if the 400 acres behind Taylor’s property were to be developed. By right in an agricultural zone, the 400 acres could be subdivided into eight 50-acre lots.
Taylor’s application included a letter signed by all but one of her neighbors approving of Taylor’s plans. County Administrator Debbie Keyser offered to check that the additional neighbor had been notified. Gary Light of the Stonewall-Hawthorne district said he “would like to know that all of the neighbors had been notified.”
On the Edge Lane, off of Fodderstack Road, cuts through a neighbor’s property. Ron Frazier, the supervisor representative on the planning commission questioned the road maintenance agreement signed in July of 1986 between the parties that states that the road could not be widened without the consent of the property owner. “If those eight other lots are built on back there, this road is not going to be wide enough,” he said.
In the end, Taylor’s application was recommended to the Board of Zoning Appeals. Five of the commissioners voted in favor; Al Henry of Hampton district abstained; and Chris Bird, the BZA representative, recused himself from the discussion and vote because, he said, “I am a neighbor and I sold her the house.”
A request rebuffed
Jennifer and Carl Ey, residents of Alexandria, are planning to build guest cabins on Old Hollow Road, but have not yet applied for a special use permit. “The Eys have put a contract on the property and have requested your feedback and would like to review their plans with you before filing an application,” Keyser told the commissioners.
Jennifer Ey, appearing with her real estate agent, told the commissioners that she and her husband own rental cabins in Luray but are looking to move “out of the Washington suburbs,” she said. “We’ve come to love Rappahannock and this area.”
The property, she explained, is 49 acres subdivided into seven parcels. “The owner is deceased and we are working with the family,” said Ey. “We have a contract with a 60-day study period. We are coming to you at the beginning of the study period to see how our plans might be viewed in the eyes of the county.” The Eys plans include “a tourist home B&B.” Down the road, they would “like to apply for a special use permit for events.“
Frazier was the first to object to the presentation. “We’re not supposed to be hearing this without an application,” he said.
Light agreed. “You can talk all you want” he said to Ey, “but we don’t have the authority to offer feedback. Maybe we could offer questions.”
Henry also agreed, but said he also wanted the commission to be “user-friendly.”
Even so, some of the commissioners did appear to give feedback. Bird said that he was concerned that events would have a greater impact on neighbors and the road. Light said he was also sensitive to neighbors’ concerns about noise and traffic.
Transient occupancy definitions
For the third meeting in a row, the commissioners continued to work their way through an 11-page chart of proposed amendments to the county zoning ordinance’s treatment of “transient occupancy.” These new amendments, if adopted, will change the way the board of supervisors, planning commission and BZA consider applications for B&Bs, tourist homes and hotels.
During the discussion, Light characterized the ordinance as “having too many definitions without much distinction.” He suggested simplifying the definitions and making them consistent.
Some of the proposed amendments may be affected by pending state legislation about accommodations booked through Airbnb or similar companies that helps homeowners rent lodging to short-term visitors, primarily online. Those amendments were tabled for the time being; the Virginia General Assembly, which last January passed a measure that would put regulation of short-term rentals under state control, delayed enactment of the measure for a year while its impact could be studied further.
The agenda and copies of documents for this and other county meetings are available at boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public. A video of the meeting is available on the Rappahannock Record’s Youtube channel at youtube.com/watch?v=8IHiN-oHIOg.
Comprehensive plan working session
Two days after their regular meeting, the planning commission reconvened in a working session to discuss updates to the county’s comprehensive plan. They spent most of the session on chapter 6, “Comprehensive Land Use Plan Goals, Principles, and Policies.” Considered the most important important chapter of the plan, the chapter helps guide the decision-making that goes into the formulation of land-use policies that shape the future physical development of the county.
To read the comprehensive plan with the proposed changes, visit rappahannockcountyva.gov/notices.html.