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Spotsylvania puts cap on special-event permits

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The Eden Try wedding venue in Spotsylvania County could be limited to just six weddings per year.

That’s because the Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved a proposal that says county staff can issue no more than six temporary event permits per year at any one location. Any additional permits will require the supervisors’ approval.

Eden Try received eight such permits in 2011, but only two in 2012 and three last year, according to a county spokeswoman. The owners of the 12-acre wedding venue off River Road fought the cap on staff-issued permits, saying it would cause “undue hardship.”

“As long as individuals are not violating the rights of others, they should have the right to utilize their property as [they] choose,” Eden Try co-owner Linda Morrison wrote in a letter to the county.

The policy was proposed after some nearby homeowners expressed safety concerns with Eden Try, such as the potential for wedding attendees to drive drunk.

Supervisors agreed to revisit the new policy—which the Planning Commission opposed—after it has been in effect for a year.

Spotsylvania previously had no limit on the temporary permits, which allow activities such as weddings, bazaars, small fairs and fireworks displays.

The county issued 56 temporary permits in 2013 for a variety of small events, Zoning Administrator Troy Tignor said. Nobody applied for more than six permits, the maximum that can be issued by staff under the new policy.

Large events such as concerts require a different permit that must be approved by supervisors.

Supervisor David Ross, who pushed for the new policy, said the previous policy was a way around special-use permits, which require public hearings and board approval. The county needed to close that loophole, “especially when neighbors are impacted in the form of noise, traffic, safety, etc,” he wrote in an email.

Eden Try is in Ross’ Courtland District.

Stevenson Ridge, a popular wedding venue off Courthouse Road, has a special-use permit that allows it to host an unlimited number of events.

Eden Try applied for such a permit last year.

The Planning Commission voted in favor of the request—which some nearby residents opposed—but the wedding venue withdrew its application before the supervisors took a vote. The owners said they had heard supervisors planned to vote down their request.

Asked earlier this year whether the limit on permits is targeting Eden Try, co-owner Gary Gratopp said: “It’s just ironic it came out after we pulled the special-use permit.” He said nobody had complained about the venue prior to the application for a special-use permit.

Gratopp said in an email last week that he was “dumbfounded” and “disappointed” by the supervisors’ vote. “I only hope it doesn’t hurt a lot of people just trying to make a living,” he wrote.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402