By Kevin Ramundo
A recently submitted proposal seeks Fauquier County approval of a hotel, event center, and restaurant on a 50-acre parcel next to Barrel Oak Winery on Grove Lane two miles west of Marshall. The Lodge at Barrel Oak project would consist of a 32,000 square-foot hotel with 42 guest rooms, a restaurant, and a large outdoor event operation that would have 78 events per year for up to 160 attendees each. The project is located in an area zoned rural/agricultural (RA), and the applicant has requested four special exceptions: (1) the hotel/resort/restaurant; (2) the events; (3) an above-ground water storage for fire suppression; and, (4) a large alternative on-site septic system.
From a CFFC perspective, there are three key issues with the proposed project.
Inconsistency with the County’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Rules The location of the project in a RA area conflicts with the county’s comprehensive plan and its service district strategy of focusing commercial operations, including hotels and restaurants, in its eight service districts. It would be a serious mistake to approve this project because of the missed opportunity to create more critical mass in the Marshall service district, which would benefit existing businesses and help attract new ones. Approval could lead to similar operations throughout the county and diminish the beauty of our countryside.
The County Cannot Effectively Evaluate the Application as Submitted The project as initially submitted lacks so much information that the county will have a very difficult time evaluating it. In addition to what the county has already requested, we believe more information is required, including a well draw-down test to understand possible impacts on the neighbors’ wells; a comprehensive traffic study; and the maximum number of people on the site at any given time.
Risks to Public Health, Safety and Welfare As noted, there could also issues associated with water availability, which could impact the wells of neighboring homes, and a significant increase in traffic on nearby roads. There is also the potential for noise affecting nearby residents from outdoor amplified music that would last until 12:00 AM on weekends. CFFC thinks these risks need to be understood in the context of the combined impacts of the project along with all the other activity on Grove Lane including Barrel Oak and Blue Valley wineries.
Neighbors Strongly Oppose Proposal
On June 14th, Brian Roeder, the applicant for project and the owner of Barrel Oak Winery, held a public meeting attended by approximately 90 people, many of whom live near his winery. When he asked if they supported his project, approximately 90 percent said they were not in favor of it. Many spoke about the noise, traffic and view shed impacts of the Barrel Oak Winery, and strongly opposed an adjacent development which would make the current situation even worse. Others said that the county’s comprehensive plan should be respected and that commercial operations should not be allowed in areas zoned rural/agricultural.
Several preservation and conservation groups, including CFFC, Goose Creek Association, and Mosby Heritage Area Association, and various neighbors have formed the Fauquier Countryside Preservation Group (FCPG) to oppose the project. This group will be very engaged as the review process unfolds and will assure that interested community members receive accurate and timely information about the project. If you are interested in being kept informed, please send an email to Jeb Hannum (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Our County Leaders
We are fortunate that Fauquier County leaders are sincerely interested in what our citizens think. To contact county officials with your concerns about the Lodge at Barrel Oak project please visit citizensforfauquier.org. For now, you may want to limit your emails to county staff, and the member of the planning commission and the board of supervisors who represent the district where you live. There will be other opportunities to contact more county leaders as the review process continues.