Possible ordinance amendment about golf driving ranges postponed until after election
Concerns about allowing a commercial enterprise to operate in an agricultural district prompted members of the Rappahannock County Planning Commission on Wednesday to unanimously recommend that a dog trainer not be allowed to open a training business at the corner of Forest Grove and Richmond roads in Amissville.
Charlotte Wagner’s application for a special use permit now moves to the Rappahannock County Board of Zoning Appeals, which will hold a public hearing and vote on the permit.
Wagner had the support of several speakers who lauded her work as a trainer in Warrenton and Culpeper at the public hearing that preceded the planning commission’s vote. Construction of two pole buildings plus an exercise yard and a 12-space parking lot would be part of the site development for the business. The site is on 11.6 acres of land.
“I know Ms. Wagner. I don’t see any issues. I think the hours are good. She won’t be open late. I don’t see a traffic issue. The county really needs something like this,” said Donna McConn, owner of Golden Retreat K-9s in Amissville. McConn said her neighbors haven’t complained about her business.
Julie Foreman Mitchell, the owner of the property, said “I think [Wagner] should be given the opportunity to pursue her goal and dream.” Mitchell said she had the property for sale before and there were no takers.
Four other individuals spoke in favor of the application. But others took issue with the proposal and came to the microphone to express their reservations.
Chris Parrish, the Stonewall-Hawthorne Supervisor who’s not seeking reelection, spoke as a member of the public saying traffic is an issue in the area of the planned kennel. Parrish said he was also concerned about allowing commercial use of the property and the precedent that could set.
“Nobody will live there. The structures are going to be pretty large. It’s going to take a lot of clearing. It seems to be easier to go somewhere else,” Parrish said. He wondered what would happen to the property if Wagner leaves at some point.
Other neighboring property owners were concerned about possible noise from the kennel. There was also a worry that Wagner could expand into overnight boarding.
Wagner provided commission members with copies of the schedule of classes she proposes. She said she met with a representative of the Virginia Department of Transportation. “This is the best location for sight lines and stopping distance,” she said of the access to the property. She said the entrance will be at least 12 feet wide.
Wagner said the 80-by-120 foot metal pole barn for agility training she proposed is on the scale of a “small horse riding arena by comparison.” The pole barn proposed could easily be repurposed by a later owner of the property, she said.
There will also be a 30-by-40 foot pole barn to be used as an office and a fenced exercise yard.
Commission member Al Henry of Hampton District wondered if Wagner’s average traffic estimate if the buildings were constructed could be inaccurate.
A business in an agricultural district without a residence is unusual, Henry said. “I could easily see someone coming in and using it for equipment repair” in the future. “In the past, we haven’t had an application of this type,” he said. “It seems to conflict with the neighborhood.”
Wagner said she could accept a special use permit that would expire at the end of her ownership of the property instead of it passing on to a new owner.
Mary Katherine Ishee, the Piedmont District member on the planning commission, asked Wagner if she planned to hold dog shows that would then add to traffic volume. Wagner said she would likely seek a permit before doing so.
There were some questions as to whether the property is in the Jackson District or the Stonewall-Hawthorne District as Parrish said it was. “I’m concerned any decision would have to be revisited if it’s been misadvertised,” said Gary Light, who represents Stonewall-Hawthorne on the commission.
Commission Chairman Keir Whitson said the issue will have to be straightened out by the time the BZA takes action.
The board also referred a request from Lissa Hubbard to operate a tourist home at 41 Headwaters Rd. in Chester Gap to the BZA with no recommendation either to approve or reject, feeling there were questions about the application that needed to be addressed.
The board decided to postpone until the November meeting a discussion of a possible ordinance amendment addressing where golf driving ranges should be permitted and standards for them.
Henry said “it didn’t quite smell right” to have a discussion about an issue before the Nov. 2 election.
Cliff Miller, who operates the Schoolhouse Nine Golf Course and Inn at Mount Vernon Farm, is on the ballot for the on the Board of Supervisors in Piedmont District.
There was confusion among commissioners as to whether an application for a driving range had been filed. Apparently not, but Commission Chairman Keir Whitson said there’s been a complaint about golfers improvising their own driving range at the Miller property. And the Board of Supervisors in 2018 asked the planning commission to consider a driving range ordinance amendment stipulating where ranges could be built and setting rules about lighting and netting.