Board accelerates permit revocation effective date
Carl Henrickson, owner and operator of Harmony Manor and Skyline Vineyard Inn on Clark Lane in Washington, admitted to being “a little irritated by this event” when he spoke before the Board of Zoning Appeals this past week. However, at times, he seemed belligerent, giving monosyllabic answers to questions from BZA members.
“The event” was a public hearing to decide whether to accelerate the effective date of the revocation of Harmony Manor’s two B&B special use permits that had been revoked at the BZA’s September meeting. At that meeting, the BZA had set the effective date of the revocation to Jan. 31, 2020, as “an accommodation to [Harmony Manor] with the understanding that there would be no more violations,” BZA member David Konick said at last week’s meeting. “The postponement of the effective date was to accommodate their business, but it was not a license to [continue to] violate.”
Conditions of the two permits issued in 2012 and 2014 allowed a three-bedroom B&B and specifically prohibited for-profit events. But earlier this year, Zoning Administrator Michelle Somers cited the Henricksons for renting out five bedrooms at Harmony Manor.
In addition, the Henricksons established a farm winery at the property and began holding wine tastings for which there is a charge.
The county’s concern about these activities was the potential of increased traffic on one-lane residential Clark Lane affecting the safety of the road’s residents. Harmony Manor neighbors previously had reported events such as a Porsche rally involving up to 40 vehicles. Carl Henrickson said at the time that it was not a car rally, but a wine tasting.
In October, the Henricksons allowed close friends of the family to hold a wedding on the Harmony Manor property. In last week’s BZA meeting, Henrickson insisted that the wedding party paid for everything and he had not charged for the use of the facility.
He described 20-person vans shuttling guests from off-site parking to the venue along Clark Road.
BZA member Chris Bird described the situation as “somewhat multi-faceted… The property needs to decide if it wants to be a B&B or a winery event [facility].”
He admonished the Henricksons, saying, “The use [of the property] and the traffic need to be addressed for the beneficial relationship with the community as a whole.”
At the meeting, the BZA voted 4-0 to change the B&B permits’ revocation effective date to that night. (Chair Alex Sharp was absent.) They specified that there were to be no B&B guests as of that date.
The Henricksons have applied to the county for a special exception permit to conduct Harmony Manor as a country inn, allowing up to 16 guests at a time. The Planning Commission at its Nov. 20 meeting conducted a preliminary review of the application and tabled it until the Henricksons could supply additional information.
‘Anonymity needs to be protected’
BZA member Ron Makela used the public meeting to go on record “to address charges against me.”
He related a series of events around the discovery that the Amissville Volunteer Fire and Rescue company did not have a permit for its new sign.
“This started out with an accusation that I filed a complaint to a sign that was erected in Amissville,” Makela said. “That’s not true. The information I transmitted to the Zoning Administrator [Michelle Somers] was a question — having seen the sign — as to whether a sign permit had been issued…
“But it gets worse,” he said. “In the material written on a blog site, I was singled out as a ‘persistent complainer.’”
He explained that all elected officials receive calls from citizens about perceived zoning violations and that in passing along those questions to county officials, then “all of us at this table could be considered ‘persistent complainers.’”
Then Makela called out a supervisor, whom he did not name, for spreading the rumor that it was Makela who had complained. In the county’s complaint-driven zoning enforcement system, maintaining the anonymity of someone reporting an alleged violation is important, he said.
“This is an elected leader,” Makela said, referring to the supervisor. “This is someone aware of how the process works and that anonymity is part of the process. For him to spread a rumor about who it might be is just irresponsible.”
Other public hearings
The BZA voted 3-1 (Konick abstained) in favor of granting a special use permit to Sara Loveland for a three-bedroom tourist home on Piedmont Avenue in Washington.
The BZA voted unanimously to grant a special use permit for a two-bedroom tourist home on a 28-acre property on Little Long Mountain Road in Huntly.
The BZA voted unanimously to table two special use permit applications from Mount Vernon Farm for tourist homes. Cliff Miller, Jr. and Cliff Miller, III told the board the houses had not yet been built but would each occupy a separate 10-acre lot. The Board expressed zoning and density concerns and requested a detailed site plan before moving forward on the application.