B&B violations “a recurring nightmare,” says neighbor
Owner claims by-right exemption as winery adjunct
“Having a commercial operation on a private road has been a recurring nightmare for all of us” on Clark Lane, Jock Nash stated during a Board of Zoning Appeals’ public hearing last Wednesday.
Referring to a 17-year history of alleged zoning ordinance violations by a succession of owners of a property built in 2002 as Harmony Manor and now doing business as the Skyline Vineyard Inn, a bed and breakfast.
During the meeting, the inn’s owners Carl and Donna Henrickson, along with their attorney Brian Prater, answered to the latest charges by Zoning Administrator Michelle Somers, alleging that the Henricksons violated terms of their special use B&B permit by renting out five bedrooms, advertised for the rental of the entire property, and held unpermitted events.
In introducing the proceedings, Vice Chair Jennifer Matthews — filling in for the absent Chair Alex Sharp — said, “The purpose [of tonight’s hearing] is to determine whether or not there has been non-compliance with the . . . conditions of the special use permits that were issued by this BZA in January of 2012 and in October 2013, including but not limited to a maximum of three bedrooms and six persons, in addition to no for-profit events or rentals in that space or structure or on the property.”
She said the BZA was meeting to consider revoking “one or both of these special use permits.”
Nash was among several residents of Clark Lane who attended the meeting to protest violations resulting in increased traffic along the one-lane, badly maintained private road off of route 211 next to the farmer’s co-op. They described potholes caused by excessive inn traffic, near misses when vehicles approach each other on the road, and trespassing and peeping Tom incidents by drunk inn patrons.
Clark Lane resident Yoko Barksy cited a recent Porsche rally — which the Henricksons labeled a wine tasting — that drew well above three vehicles.
When asked how many cars were on the premises for the event, Carl Henrickson said, “I didn’t count,” but he estimated 15 vehicles. BZA member David Konick replied, “I did [count]. I stopped counting at 24 and I didn’t see all the cars. I was just counting Porsches.”
In 2013, the facility’s permit was expanded to three rooms, with certain conditions imposed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). When Carl and Donna Henrickson assumed ownership in 2016, they claim then-Zoning Administrator David Dameron told them that the conditions had been met and gave them a verbal go-ahead to expand to five B&B rooms.
Somers testified that she sent the Henricksons a letter of violation on March 6 of this year, ordering them to cease and desist renting more rooms than the three-bedroom permit allows and to stop holding unpermitted events.
On March 21, Somers reported, she met with Carl Henrickson. After that meeting, Henrickson said he stopped renting out more than three rooms. Konick asked if Henrickson had the records to prove that. Henrickson said he had B&B guest registration records going back to 2012.
The Henricksons also own the Little Washington Winery on Christmas Tree Lane, a property adjacent to the Skyline Inn. Prater, the couple’s attorney, told the BZA that the Henricksons had been cleared by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Authority Control Board (ABC) to lease part of the Inn as an adjunct tasting facility, thus the “events” at the Inn.
“We don’t believe,” Prater said, “that the B&B is in violation of the special use permit . . . and also, the activities of farm wineries are precluded from local regulation.”
Under the state’s Farm Winery Act, creating and operating a winery is allowed “by-right” and is not subject to local ordinances. The act allows a winery to operate several additional tasting rooms off-site of the production facility. The number of patrons is not regulated except by building occupancy rules.
At times, Prater and Konick, also an attorney, conducted legal arguments in which local and state code section citations flew faster than bullets at a shootout — Prater saying state code around farm wineries and agritourism trumped local ordinances, such as special use permitting that allows for B&Bs.
BZA member Ron Makela challenged that arrangement. “You were given a permit for a B&B,” Makela said. “That building now is apparently a winery.”
Henrickson appeared to agree: “Part of the reason for buying the [inn] property . . . besides being immediately adjacent to the Little Washington Winery property that we have across the creek from it was that it’s got 14-foot ceilings and a three-car garage. That’s a perfect winery structure. . . . As a matter of fact the winery equipment is beginning to arrive now.”
Before the board voted, Konick also gave an extensive history of the property, permits, and violation citations over the years.
At the end of the two-and-a-half hour hearing, most members of the BZA agreed that they needed to see the B&B guest registration records and Skyline’s farm winery lease. They then voted to continue the hearing until August.
Konick, Makela, and Matthews voted in favor of the continuance. Chris Bird, who felt that the BZA was going far afield of the purpose of the hearing, abstained.
Two tourist homes given conditional approval
Makela, Matthews, and Bird voted to approve special use permits for two tourist homes on property owned by Golden Springs LLC, formerly known as High Meadow Farm, on Crest Hill Road in Flint Hill. Konick abstained from voting.
Matt Neiswanger, owner of the property, told the BZA that he now runs a wine tasting room on the 507-acre estate and wanted to convert two existing two-bedroom dwellings into tourist homes for winery guests who wished to stay overnight.
Makela asked whether the dwellings had landline service, as cell reception can be unreliable in that part of the county. Neiswanger said he has landline service to his own residence on the property, but not to the small houses. He offered to explore broadband options to facilitate communications to and from the tourist homes.
The BZA set conditions on the permit approvals: a maximum of four persons per dwelling, proof of outside communications capability, the presence of working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in each dwelling, and a book of rules and emergency contact information in each. The board also mandated that the permit would be voided if the property or the LLC changed hands, or if ownership drops below 80 percent.