Culpeper County planners recommend approval of two projects

A deeply divided Culpeper County Planning Commission narrowly recommended approval of a conditional use permit that would allow a new inn and event facility while at the same time easily recommended approval of a rezoning for a 132-unit age-restricted development along Ira Hoffman Lane at its meeting last Wednesday night. Both recommendations will be considered at the January meeting of the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors.

The commission was reminded by Assistant County Administrator and Planning Director John Egertson that a public hearing had already been held on the conditional use permit on the request by Josh Millson-Martula to operate an inn and event facility. The matter was tabled when commissioners expressed a desire to see a signed road maintenance agreement between Millson-Martula and Jeff Herren of Herren Farms.

Getting to the inn on a road less travelled
Millson-Martula owns 129 acres in the Jefferson District that is mostly abounded by the 1,173-acre farm owned by Herren. Herren also owns the two-mile 12-foot wide farm road and bridge that leads to Millson-Martulaâ??s property. Millson-Martula, through an easement, may use Herrenâ??s farm road.

Millson-Martula wants to renovate the circa 1815 brick manor house and numerous outbuildings, comprised of a blacksmith shop, slave quarters, tenant houses and large barns. Some of the renovated accessory buildings would serve as guest quarters, along with rooms in the main pre-Civil War home where he proposes to operate his event facility and bed and breakfast.

After a month, Herren and Millson-Martula could not reach an agreement about maintaining the road. Millson-Martula verbally committed to maintaining the road, re-grading in spots and posting 15 mph speed limit signs along the road as well as no trespassing signs to warn potential guests to stay off Herrenâ??s property. However, the proposed agreement required each property owner to assume maintenance of their prorated maintenance costs for sections commonly used by each party.

Herren Farms submitted a document opposing Millson-Martulaâ??s use permit. One issue in opposition was the bridge which has no guardrails since large pieces of farm equipment must traverse the bridge and would be impeded by guardrails.

Additional engineering studies submitted to the commission indicate the bridge is capable of handling the weight of a fire engine filled with water.

In closing his remarks, Egertson said he was â??confidentâ? there would be no signed road maintenance agreement.

Attorney John J. â??Butchâ? Davies representing Millson-Martula agreed.

Egertson urged the commission to â??look at the big pictureâ? and determine if the planned inn is appropriate or not.

Egertson said private road issues have been considered in the past by the commission, with some resulting in denial and others in approval. He also said that if the commission imposed a long list of conditions to address every concern, making it impossible to enforce it, approval would be akin to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Commissioner Walter Burton asked what legal right Millson-Martula had to make road improvements. Davies responded that communication between the two owners was key.

â??For this particular use, I donâ??t think it is appropriate for this location,â? said Commissioner Laura Rogers, who also questioned all the signage â?? speed limit and no trespassing â?? commissioners wanted that could impede farm equipment crossing the road. â??Iâ??m sorry, I canâ??t support this.â?

Commissioner Cindy Thornhill, who supported the use permit, noted that â??property rights are very important in our democratic society.â?

â??Both parties have a right to use their property as they see fit,â? said Thornhill.

Commissioner Gary Deal, who initially was in opposition to the use permit, changed his mind after spending several hours touring the property.

â??I think the use of what he wants to do would be great for our community,â? said Deal. Commissioner Sally Underwood echoed Dealâ??s remarks.

Questions were raised about the ability of Millson-Martula to make improvements â?? guardrails or curbs â?? that must be installed. Commissioner Lou Price said if those improvements cannot or are not made then the whole issue is moot.

By a 5-4 vote, the commissioners recommended approving the conditional use permit to the board of supervisors.

Age-Restricted facility recommended for approval
In another matter, the planning commission unanimously sent to the board of supervisors its approval of a request to rezone 12.5 acres along Ira Hoffman Lane adjacent to the Northridge residential subdivision for a three-story 132-unit age-restricted facility. Marlyn Development Corporation of Virginia Beach, which has several similar facilities in the Hampton Roads area, made the request.

The project, which is restricted to adults 55 or over, would be served by town water and sewer service, which would be included in the rent.

â??The planning staff supports the development,â? said Egertson.

The developer proffered to pay the county $500 per unit as the units are occupied and also agreed to modifications to Ira Hoffman Lane such as the median crossover and right turn in and right turn out lanes.

The impact on public safety was not a â??huge concern of staff,â? Egertson told the common.

â??We think the rezoning is appropriate,â? said Egertson.

Recently, the town reduced tap fees for senior citizen facilities.

The new facility would contain 80 two-bedroom and 32 one-bedroom apartments. Each unit will have pull cords to summon help. The building will have a fitness center, balconies, monitored security, business center and offer van transportation.

Rent for a one-bedroom apartment would be about $750 to $800 and between $950 and $1,100 for a two-bedroom unit.

â??One of the biggest perks is security,â? said Marlyn Vice President Francis Nance.

Nance said that while most of its units are in southeast Virginia, Culpeper appealed to the developer.

â??Culpeper has a lot going for it,â? said Nance.

Jefferson resident David Rowe, who spoke at the public hearing, said the project would be an asset, but he also noted that 4.9 million children in the United State were living with grandparents. He questioned if there may be school children possibly living in the development.

Rowe also noted that an additional ambulance might be needed to handle medical emergencies generated by the senior citizens living there.

â??A proffer of $500 just doesnâ??t cut the mustard,â? said Rowe who hoped the developer would increase the proffer.

Chairman Reaves said something like this for senior citizens is definitely needed.

â??Itâ??s independent living,â? said Reaves. â??Itâ??s not like an assisted living situation.â?

Rogers hoped that the board of supervisors would look closely at the cash proffer.

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at wallybunker@outlook.com

Courtesy photo. Historic manor house known as Presqueâ?? Isle that sits on more than 100 acres is surrounded on three sides by Herren Farms. New owner Millson-Martula envisions an inn and event facility but getting there requires crossing a bridge that will need repairs and is shared by the farm. County planners have agreed to a conditional use permit but vote was close at 5-4.