Thursday, June 6, 2013

Apples and pineapples

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors spent an inordinately long time grappling with the details of a conditional use application at their Tuesday, June 4 meeting. This indicates that the Board does not make decisions in advance of meetings and agree on everything.

The CUP application was filed by Tamra and Douglas Adams to allow them continue holding barn weddings.

The property in question, at the southwest corner of the Broad Street/Fairground Road intersection, is more than 100 acres in size. A good portion of the surrounding land, including South Ceres Farm on the north side of Broad Street Road, which is also owned by the couple, is undeveloped.

Tamra Adams and her family live in a home on the property, which is also the site of the Adams International Montessori School. She explained that the proceeds of the weddings help to underwrite the cost of running the school.

A rustic barn on the property is used to hold weddings. Adams characterized these events as modest, generally celebrating the nuptials of couples of humble means. Some of her brides, said Adams, bake their own wedding cakes.

The supervisors, however, while seeking the admirable goal of fairness and consistency, insisted on equating barn weddings, held as a sideline to a small school, to those held at Dover Hall, which is now a commercial event venue.

That’s a little like comparing delicious apples to pineapples.

Like Dover Hall, Adams’ property will host, from time to time, larger events in support of non-profit organizations. These affairs can showcase the best of Goochland to outsiders, who just might be interested in doing business here.

Adams reminded the supervisors that South Ceres hosted an annual polo match that drew thousands of people with little heartburn. (A CUP application for that property is expected to be filed in the coming months.)

Nevertheless, the supervisors plowed on, seeking ways to impose the same restrictions on the Adams’ property as Dover Hall in the name of fairness and consistency.

Concerns about traffic were raised. One speaker complained about the addition of more cars to rush hour traffic. Adams said that no one gets married at eight on a weekday morning.

The CUP for the school, whose students consistently achieve academic mastery beyond their traditional grade levels, includes specific attendance thresholds that will require upgrading of the septic system, parking and road improvements.

The supervisors acted as though there were unfamiliar with the property, even though they all attended a political function in the school barn just before the November, 2011 election. A lot of people attended that event. Alcohol was served. There were no issues of any sort. That was all done without benefit of a CUP, a uniformed security guard, or any other restrictions.

While many people disparage the CUP concept as spot zoning, it does provide a mechanism for the supervisors to determine if the proposed use is appropriate for a particular property. Goochland is a land of contrasts, and one size does not fit all. Also, a CUP can be revoked if a property owner fails to comply with the conditions.

Environmental Planner Leigh Dunn, the staff member presenting the application, reported that in the four years that weddings have been held on the Adams property, there were no complaints. Mention was made of a complaint about loud music over Memorial Day weekend, but there is some doubt that the music originated from the subject site.

Susan Lascolette District 1 was the most concerned about inconsistencies between the Dover Hall CUP and that requested by Adams, specifically requirements to have uniformed security on hand and limiting the number of attendees.

Chairman Ken Peterson District 5 explained that the Board’s challenge is to balance the competing interests of property owners, neighbors and the needs of the business in question. Adams explained that she has many wedding scheduled for the rest of the year and delay in approval of the CUP will cause hardship.

Adams contended that she is very supportive of the county and would like a little support in return.

Lascolette contended that imposing different conditions on the Adams property versus Dover Hall gives one venue an advantage over the other. Her intentions are good, but it is really hard to believe that both sites will compete for the same clients.

Adams contended that Dover Hall and her property were quite dissimilar and should be treated differently. Her weddings are low key and rustic, while, well, some folks refer to Dover Hall as a castle. Because of limited septic capacity, all barn weddings are required to supply porta-potties for their guests. In contrast, Dover Hall has dozens of bathrooms and a ballroom. Dover Hall is on a narrow winding road, the Adams property is on the main drag and very close to Interstate 64.

Ned Creasey, District 3, who disclosed that his granddaughter’s wedding was recently held at the Adams’ property, said that his main concern was traffic.

Manuel Alvarez District 2 explained that his “gut feeling” was that the conditions imposed on Dover Hall were too strict.

Bob Minnick District 4, whose territory includes both Dover Hall and the Adams property, suggested that the road access to both properties and intensity of events hosted by these venues is not comparable. The uniformed security requirement, he said, may have been offered by Dover Hall, rather than imposed by the county.

Events with more than 250 attendees with alcohol, 500 without alcohol, require a large crowd permit above and beyond the CUP that addresses traffic issues.

Just after 10 p.m. the Supervisors finally came to consensus on conditions which include: outdoor amplified music will be allowed only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 7 p.m. and will be oriented away from the homes to the south of the property; events with more than 150 guests that include amplified music and alcohol will require uniformed security; and the overall attendance limit will be 700.

Peterson contended that these conditions while a bit more liberal than those imposed on Dover Hall, are appropriate because the 131 acre Adams property is much larger than Dover Hall and located on a main road.

The Adams property shows great promise for uses far more innovative and beneficial to the county than more homes or stores. While it is prudent for the supervisors to impose conditions that safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the community they should not smother the venture with excessive regulation.












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