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Planning commission turns down Roseland vacation buses

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These images, included in a Nelson County Planning Commission packet, show two renovated school buses on a property on Sleepy Hollow Road in Roseland. The owner hopes to secure a special use permit to continue renting the buses as short-term rentals.

A pair of colorful buses along Sleepy Hollow Road drew complaints from neighbors at a recent Nelson County Planning Commission meeting. Commissioners unanimously voted against a special use permit to allow applicant Kyle Hawke to continue renting them to short-term guests.

The school buses at 1939 Sleepy Hollow Road in Roseland — one green and one blue — have interiors renovated and furnished for a glamorous camping, or “glamping,” experience. Each is equipped with a queen-size bed, a set of bunk beds and a kitchen and bath, according to Hawke’s application.

He’s been renting out the buses since January on independent rental sites Airbnb, VRBO and Hipcamp, but has since halted after receiving a notice of violation from the Planning and Zoning Department.

Hawke must secure a special use permit to resume operations because the use falls under the zoning ordinance definition of a campground, which is not permitted in the parcel’s Agricultural (A-1) zoning. Hawke rents out a house on the other side of the 6.7-acre property separately — it’s not included in the special use permit because vacation houses are allowed by-right in areas zoned A-1. During the meeting, commissioners determined the buses also do not meet setback requirements, which means they are positioned too close to the road.

The county planning commission doesn’t approve or deny special use permits; rather, it makes recommendations to the county board of supervisors. The permit now will appear before supervisors Dec. 13 with an unfavorable recommendation from the commission.

If the board of supervisors approves the permit, Hawke will update the current gravel driveway leading to the buses off Sleepy Hollow Road, and replace their composting toilets with a septic system.

“I know some of my neighbors are here and I am respectful of their perspectives and I want to find a solution that works for everybody in the area,” Hawke said.

Four neighbors spoke during a public hearing, complaining about noise and trespassers on their properties and expressing concern about the rentals’ impact on their property values.

Barbara Adams said she and her husband’s property borders Hawke’s and told commissioners about an incident in January where a guest of the rental house was allegedly firing a semi-automatic rifle toward her property. Hawke later said he didn’t know if the firearm was a semi-automatic but that information might be available in a police report — the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office was contacted but the guests were not cited and immediately complied with Hawke’s request to cease target practice, according to his application.

Adams also expressed concern the buses will add another potential 12 guests to the house’s current 14-guest capacity. In his application, Hawke said he’d reviewed his transaction history and concluded he hadn’t had 25 or more guests across the three properties any night this year.

Don Woodsmall lives in Charlottesville but owns property adjacent to Hawke’s, which he hopes his son or daughter might one day build a house on.

“I ask you, if your house was 75 feet away from school buses being used like this, would that adversely impact your property?” he said.

Hawke later told commissioners he’d be in favor of a condition that his special use permit expire when Woodsmall’s property is developed. He said he’d also be willing to install noise monitors on the property to report noise above a set decimal to him as the host.

But Commissioners Phillippa Proulx and Robin Hauschner objected to there being no on-site caretaker to enforce rules — Hawke lives in Richmond but said he does employ a Shipman-based caretaker to clean the properties.

Proulx noted commissioners often have to make decisions about special use permits not knowing how they will affect the community, but the timing of Hawke’s permit after the buses have been rented a year, with neighbors’ feedback, provides a clearer perspective.

“It’s a demonstration of adverse impact on the adjacent properties,” Hauschner said.

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