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Orange planners endorse agribusiness plans

Following public hearings that produced no speakers, the Orange County Planning Commission voted this week to forward endorsements to the Board of Supervisors on three proposals.

The county planning staff had recommended approval of all three requests.

W.W. “Monk” Sanford, and Carolyn Sanford requested an amendment Thursday night to the 2025 Recommended Land Use Map of the county comprehensive plan, and a rezoning of their 2.2-acre property on Litchfield Drive at the U.S. 15 intersection, from General Industrial to Agricultural zoning. Sanford said they are farming the land and want to down-zone it to agricultural use.

Ellen Pitera, on behalf of Rountree Farm on Rapidan Road in Orange, sought a special-use permit to host private events with some overnight lodging regularly throughout the year on two lots totaling nearly 40 acres zoned agricultural.

Pitera and her husband propose to use an existing barn and facilities to host weddings, receptions, rehearsal dinners, corporate events and church retreats, as well as summer day camps for children. They would also like to use a one-room existing guesthouse on the property as a bed-and-breakfast.

The property lies within a conservation easement granted to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. Pitera indicated that no new construction is anticipated for the project, and that their plan was to preserve all existing vegetation and to add new plantings to improve aesthetics.

Pitera noted that the requested permit was to expand their farm business into the agritourism realm, aimed at creating different revenue streams that would allow the farm to remain family-owned and operated for generations to come.

The planners gave the plan a positive recommendation, contingent on there being no objection from the VOF that the proposed uses would violate the easement provisions.

Supervisors will make the final decision on the requests.

Dan McFarland: