Planning Commission divided on Flint Hill event center

Votes in favor of family apartments

The Rappahannock County Planning Commission at its regular meeting August 16 voted to recommend three applications move to either the Board of Supervisors or the Board of Zoning Appeals.

After being tabled at the June 21 Planning Commission, the special exception application for an events center at Alnell Farm north of Flint Hill was back on the agenda. The application had been tabled in June to allow the applicants time to respond to neighbor opposition.

Local attorney Mike Brown, representing applicants Susan Kummli and Stephanie Gorham, told the planners at the August meeting that Kummli and Gorham had worked to address the neighbors’ objections.

Among other concerns, Brown said that the applicants had consulted VDOT about the sight distance on Jericho Road, consulted the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire Department about emergency vehicle access, communicated with Wakefield Country Day School on Route 522 across from Jericho Road about the school’s use of the road for sports training, and suggested conditions for lighting, amplified music, and the number and size of events.

Although public comment was not required, Vice Chair Gary Light (sitting in for Chair Gary Settle) said he would allow additional comments.

As they had in previous meetings, Gus and Sandra Forbush, neighbors of Alnell Farm, spoke about a portion of Jericho Road that includes a sharp left turn presenting problems for emergency vehicle access.

Sandra Forbush also said she had consulted a real estate agent about the salability of her own farm if Alnell Farm was allowed to have commercial activity. Forbush reported that the realtor had said they would not show the property if it went up for sale.

Julia Thieriot and others who live on North Poes Road expressed fear of increased traffic along their narrow, mostly unpaved road. Jericho Road becomes North Poes, which connects to Route 647, Cresthill Road. Residents were concerned that GPS mapping systems would send Alnell Farm event attendees along North Poes.

“This would create more litter and pollution” along North Poes, said Thieriot.

During the Planning Commission discussion, Holly Meade, the newly appointed commissioner representing the Wakefield district, stated that she would abstain from voting, as she was not as familiar as the other commissioners with the application.

However, she said, she wondered if the application had been submitted under the correct zoning category for the activity planned.

Chris Bird, the BZA representative on the Planning Commission, suggested that if the application was approved, the panel could hold another meeting later in the year to assess the impact of events on the neighbors.

John Lesinski, the BOS representative on the Planning Commission, asked if the Alnell Farm owners would manage events, to which they answered yes.

Light suggested that there should be a time restraint on amplified music, but that he felt the proposal was an appropriate use of the property and not overly impactful to the neighborhood.

He also said that he had Googled directions to Alnell Farm from Washington, D.C., and was directed to the property via Jericho Road, not North Poes.

Light, saying he was “mindful of the unanticipated,” suggested adding conditions to those already stated in the application, including requiring Planning Commission review after one year, notification to the sheriff and local fire department 30 days in advance of an event, that events be one-day only and limited to only four events a year, that there be on-site management hired by the owners, and amplified music would be allowed for no more than four hours between noon and 10:00 pm.

The panel barely approved the application to be recommended to the Board of Supervisors. Light, Bird, and Lesinski voted in favor. Meade and Brown abstained. Al Henry, from Hampton district, was also absent.

Meanwhile, two special use permit applications for family apartments received unanimous approval to move forward to the BZA. Abree Silver, Andy Silver, and Rigel Whytsell requested the permit for their house in Amissville to “finish our basement into a livable space for our ailing mother,” according to the application.

My mother-in-law has MS,” Whytsell told the commission. “We want to be able to take care of her.”

The Rappahannock County Zoning Ordinance places conditions on the establishment of family apartments. The apartment must not be larger than 1,200 square feet of living space, must have a separate entrance in certain circumstances, and cannot be more than 200 feet away from the primary residence. In addition, the apartment may not be rented to anyone other than a family member for a period of two years following completion of the apartment.

The planners briefly discussed the application.

“This is a reasonable use,” said Bird. “It requires no change to the building or the neighborhood.”

David and Birgitte Thornhill applied for a special use permit for a family apartment on their property in Boston. They told the planners they intend to renovate the top floor of a barn into a residence for their son and daughter-in-law.

Light said he supported the application with one consideration — the barn is 355 feet from the main residence. However, he said, “The BZA has the power to waive the distance requirement” due to topographical features that prevent the structure from being closer.

According to the Thornhill’s letter to the county, “The barn could not have been built in any other location on the property due to the following exceptional topographic conditions: graveyard, pond, well, steep grade.”

About Patty Hardee 277 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.