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Planned rural retreat in Caroline hits snag

Business executives looking to mix work with a little relaxation won’t be booking a trip just yet to a corporate retreat center that Silver Cos. wants to develop off U.S. 17 in Caroline County.

Caroline’s Board of Supervisors last week rejected three changes to the county code that would allow a rural resort to be built in the county’s rural preservation-zoned areas with a special-exception permit.

Silver Cos. needs the code changed so it can pursue plans for a 12-room lodge with a dining area, conference and meeting spaces, and other amenities on part of the 1,209 acres known historically as Moss Neck Manor Plantation.

The property does not include the historic Moss Neck Manor itself, which sits on a separate 280-acre parcel. The manor’s owners oppose the project.

Silver Cos. envisions the facility for corporate retreats and other special events accommodating roughly 40 people. Recreational activities would include hunting and clay pigeon shooting, as well as fishing, canoeing and swimming on a lake that is part of the property.

Moss Neck adjoins Fort A.P. Hill, which conducts a variety of training operations for the Army in that area. Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Keith R. Whitcomb told supervisors the post has concerns.

“We do not have a good understanding of exactly what such an amendment would allow or what precise parameters there would be on a rural resort,” Whitcomb said. “It relates to potential issues in our immediate backyard.”

Because the post’s boundary is “porous,” people could wander close to where training and aviation operations are occurring, he said.

It’s not an easy problem to avoid.

“There’s no way we’re going to purchase a huge fence to go around A.P. Hill,” Whitcomb said.

The code changes supervisors were considering would have:

added a definition for “rural resort”

repealed and replaced the definition for “general store”

added “rural resort,” “museum” and “general store” as special exceptions allowed in rural preservation zones.

Development standards also would have been established for rural resorts and general stores.

Approximately 80 percent of the county’s land is zoned rural preservation, Planning Director Mike Finchum told supervisors.

The Planning Commission discussed the changes at several meetings before recommending approval on a 4–1 vote, with one member absent.

Supervisors indicated they were not ready to approve the changes because they had too many unanswered questions.

Western Caroline District’s Jeff Black, Bowling Green’s Jeff Sili and Reedy Church’s Reggie Underwood voted to reject the changes, while Madison’s Wayne Acors and Port Royal’s Calvin Taylor supported them. Taylor’s district includes the Moss Neck property.

Chairman and Mattaponi Supervisor Floyd Thomas abstained to avoid a tie.

Black said one of his concerns is over how long someone could stay at a resort.

Finchum said the resorts would operate like hotels, but with more recreational activities. However, just like hotels, he noted it would be hard to enforce the length of a person’s stay there.

Underwood suggested sending the proposed code changes back to the Planning Commission and county staff for reexamination. Underwood, Acors and Taylor voted in favor of that motion, Black and Sili voted against it. Thomas abstained.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413

rsidersky@freelancestar.com

 

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