Sperryville resident Tom Taylor addresses the Planning Commission's at the Nov. 18 meeting.

Planners consider rezoning to 2-acre minimum; public hearings, BOS vote also required

Does a rezoning inevitably mean development? That was the question swirling around last Wednesday night’s meeting of the Rappahannock County Planning Commission. 

Sperryville resident Tom Taylor and his wife Cheryl, doing business under the name Mt. Airy Field LLC, have applied to rezone their 35-acre tract along Woodward Road from Rural Residential 5 (RR-5 restricts lot size to a five-acre minimum) to R-2, which downsizes lots to two acres minimum.

The possibility of his request for rezoning came up earlier in the year during Planning Commission discussions about the revised — but yet to be approved — comprehensive plan that introduced boundary maps of Rappahannock’s major villages. Taylor’s property adjacent to Sperryville has access to the Rappahannock County Water and Sewer Authority sewer lines.

The maps have proved to be unpopular to many county residents who fear the ambiguity of the maps and their descriptions would invite development to the villages, as the maps’ proponents claim, rather than restrict it. (In fact, the county’s Board of Supervisors discussing the comp plan at its Nov. 2 meeting threw out the maps.)

Although several planners — and the Taylors’ attorney Mike Brown — tried at the meeting to defuse the idea that a rezoning would predictably lead to a subdivision, the Taylors’ application clearly states that the proposed use of the property is to “Build Residential Homes on 2-Acre Lots.”

Ron Frazier, the Jackson supervisor who sits on the Planning Commission, called the rezoning requirement “perfunctory” to a subdivision request. Brown jumped in: “I would say it’s preliminary” and characterized the process of creating a subdivision “a distinctly intricate plan.”

Chair David Konick repeatedly told planners and attendees that the rezoning request is not a subdivision request.

“If the rezoning request is approved,” Konick said, “[Taylor] must submit a plat to be approved by this commission, then ultimately by the Board of Supervisors. We both have to have a public hearing on it, so what is [required] from VDOT, accessing the sewer capabilities, would all be things that would have to be addressed once a specific [subdivision] proposal was put forward, which is not what’s being [proposed] now.”  

Planner Mary Katherine Ishee moved that the commission hold a public hearing in January on the Taylors’ rezoning application in order to give the Water and Sewer Authority more time to complete a planned study of the sewer system’s capacity. Ultimately, the commission voted to hold the public hearing at its December 16 meeting.

‘Loop of sustainability’

The planners voted unanimously to send a special permit application for a country inn to the Board of Supervisors for its consideration. Kathryn Everett on behalf of Chancellor's Rock Farm LLC proposes to operate a country inn on the 446-acre property on N. Poes Road outside Flint Hill.

Everett’s attorney Taylor Odom explained that the applicants propose to host six farm-to-table dinners in a year, with no more than 12 guests at each event. The applicants will also provide overnight accommodations for their guests with two existing cottages and one cabin on the property with not more than 14 guests. In addition they plan to host two lectures/lunches per year with no more than 30 guests.

Everett presented the property map and photos to help the planners “understand the context of where the activity is and the forested buffer that surrounds us.”

She explained that the idea for weekend packages of dining and lodging was inspired by their relationship with chef Fabio Trabacchi who runs Fiola Mare restaurant in Washington, DC. The Everetts supply the restaurant with sustainably grown produce and livestock.

“We thought we would love to bring guests out. … We could complete the loop of sustainability by welcoming people to the farm where they could see how the animals are raised [and the rest of the operation].”

To allay previous concerns of her neighbors, Everett hosted a meeting at the property to discuss anxieties such as traffic and noise.

During the public hearing, Betsy Parker who lives along N. Poes told the planners that she has “no problem with the applicants and the application,” but was concerned about increased traffic on the road.

John Beardsley of Wakefield district said he supported the application as being consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan.

“I am sympathetic with the neighbors’ concerns about traffic,” Beardsley said. “I have seen an increase over the years, but the traffic has brought some very nice people out here. At stake, though, is the future of agriculture and agricultural jobs in the county.”

Flint Hill farmer Mike Sands echoed Beardley’s comments: “This is an important opportunity for the evolution of agriculture in this county.”

Sperryville tourist home

The planners also voted unanimously in favor of recommending a tourist home special use permit application to the Board of Zoning Appeals. John and Marylee Ford own a 2-bedroom on Fletchers Mill Road in Sperryville that they wish to operate as an Airbnb.

In her motion to pass along the application to the BZA, Ishee suggested several conditions including: restrict parking to two cars and because the property has a cistern and not a well, guests need to be notified in advance to bring their own water.

Working session scheduled

Because of the lateness of the hour, the planners agreed to continue the meeting later this month.

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