The Nelson County Planning Commission voted 5-1 on March 24 to recommend approval of a special use permit for a future event space to hold a total of 24 events per year, double what is currently allowed by right for the Afton property.
The 5.22-acre property, located at 27 Chapel Hollow Road, currently has existing dwellings that operate as vacation houses and is zoned as Agricultural (A-1). The structure previously operated as a bed-and-breakfast and the site also had served as the Flying Fox Vineyards tasting room.
Corbin Snow, the applicant, said he is requesting to be allowed to hold more events than is currently permitted under county ordinance to accompany a more than 4,000-square-foot building he plans to build on the property, which is allowed as an accessory use.
Snow said the event space only could be rented by people staying on the property and it would not otherwise be open to the public.
Working with the applicant, county staff had originally suggested 26 additional events be allowed under the permit, which would bring the total number of events allowed per calendar year to 38, but commissioners opted to reduce that number with the expectation the permit could be amended at a later date to allow for more events.
“I would really like to see what the numbers are first. See how it’s going, how’s it affecting your neighbors, what the traffic is like ... “ South District Commissioner Mary Kathryn Allen said to the applicant.
Snow previously had come before the planning commission last month to request a special use permit for a banquet hall, but withdrew the application after guidance from the commission and county staff as the structure was already a by-right use.
“I feel like the proposal before you tonight is aligned with some of the county goals in terms of bringing tourism to the area,” Snow said.
Events will be limited to no more than two per week with only one event allowed on the weekends. Additional proffers include the parking area being screened using landscaping from Chapel Hollow Road, no additional lighting that would result in pollution and staff are required to supervise and maintain each event, according to documents.
Staff also recommended no amplification after 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, with events ending no later than 10 p.m. and a one-hour extension to those deadlines on Fridays and Saturdays.
During the public hearing, Afton resident Betty Slough noted several concerns she had with the application, stating it would change the character of the area. Traffic on the already highly traveled Virginia 151 corridor would suffer as well, she said.
“Whether you rent it out to 300 people in a family or you let 300 people come in off the street, it’s still 300 people,” Slough said. “You’re going to throw away people who lived on that road and live on that road.”
She also said she was worried how a sprinkler system — arguing one was required by code — for the structure would affect well systems of other residents. Bishop noted, however, the county’s building official had advised to the contrary.
Nelson County Board of Supervisors representative Ernie Reed — the only official to vote against the application — also took issue with potential consequences the additional 12 events per year would have on the area.
“The increase in traffic that the additional SUP events would allow with this will continue to escalate problems that are already existing,” Reed said.
Officials noted because 12 events are already allowed by right, a special use permit is the only area where commissioners can flex some control over the impact to the area.
North District Commissioner Philippa Proulx said she was sympathetic to Snow’s need to build a viable business model, but added commissioners must ultimately balance that with the potential impact to the area.
Allen said she was concerned with potential uses for the space in the future as SUPs run with the life of the land, not the owner.
“That is my concern, where is Nelson County and [Virginia route] 151 going to be 10 to 15 years from now,” Allen said, noting the Rockfish Valley had outgrown the development plan for the area.