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April 24, 2012

Planning Commission recommends changes to allow more rural lodging

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Albemarle Planning Commission has voted 4-2 to recommend zoning changes to facilitate the opening of more bed and breakfasts in the county’s rural areas.
 
Albemarle’s zoning code currently allows property owners to open up to five rooms to overnight visitors as a by-right use, but they must either live in the structure or hire an on-site manager.
 
“Someone has to reside within that building,” said Amelia McCulley, the county’s director of planning.
 
One of the changes recommended for approval is that the property owner or manager could live elsewhere on the property but must still be present.
 
Under current rules, rooms cannot be located in secondary structures on the property.
 
“Sometimes there are rooms spread through the property in convenient locations, such as old barns and apartments above garages,” McCulley said.
 
If the zoning code change is adopted by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, rooms could be opened on any structure that meets the building code for dwelling units.
 
“Any structure used as a guest use still requires all the building and safety approvals,” McCulley said. “Not every barn and accessory structure can be reasonably or feasibly converted into a guest room and any that are would have to meet regulations.”
A new structure would be considered a new dwelling and would still need to comply with all of the county’s rules governing development. That means the property owner would need to have a development right.
 
However, the limit to five rooms will remain because anything else would be considered a hotel — a prohibited use in the rural areas.
 
Albemarle County is currently reviewing its Comprehensive Plan, and many potential changes have been rolled into that process. However, this potential zoning change has been expedited at the request of Supervisor Ann H. Mallek.
 
Inns can be operated in rural areas if they are historic and if the owner has obtained a special-use permit.
 
The definition of an “inn” will be reviewed during the ongoing Comprehensive Plan review.
 
“This is a small part of a larger set of changes that could occur,” said Wayne Cilimberg, the county’s director of planning.
 
The changes for bed and breakfasts are supported by the Free Enterprise Forum.
 
“The changes proposed will not intensify the use of the rural areas and, in many cases, will provide adaptive reuse of structures that may have exhausted their original agricultural intent,” Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, said in a statement.
 
Keswick resident Judith Sommer lives close to both Keswick Winery and Castle Hill Cidery. She said both are noisy neighbors because of frequent events such as weddings.
 
State law prevents Albemarle officials from regulating or restricting many activities at farm wineries.
 
“I see this [potentially] putting an additional burden on the people already burdened by wineries,” Sommer said. “I see this as a way for the party to continue all night.”
 
Commissioner Richard Randolph said he supported bed and breakfasts, but not necessarily for farm wineries.
 
“I don’t see that there are any problems with bed and breakfasts, but when they get attached to a winery, there are issues,” Randolph said.
Randolph wanted to know if there was a way to prevent farm wineries from being able to open up bed and breakfasts.
 
“It’s going to be difficult to treat lands with farm wineries differently than those that don’t,” said deputy county attorney Greg Kamptner.
 
“Right now, any winery can have tourist lodging,” Cilimberg said. “It just has to be within a single-family dwelling that is there.”
 
Commissioner Don Franco said neighbors of farm wineries would have protection if there was noise emanating from an on-site bed and breakfast.
 
“If I’ve got a winery and it caters to a wedding and the party wants to keep going, it can’t, because it would be subject to rural area noise ordinance,” Franco said. “It doesn’t give it a license to continue a party.”
 
The commission voted 4-2 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the changes. Commissioners Richard Randolph and Ed Smith voted against. Bruce Dotson was not present.
 
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the topic on June 6.
 

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