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City to allow events at Braehead Farm

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The Fredericksburg City Council on Tuesday night approved a special-use permit for George and Roxanna Snead to permanently operate a market and seasonal events on the last working farm in the city.

The Sneads requested the special-use permit to sell fresh produce and to have livestock on their 28 acres known as Braehead Farm so they can hold pick-your-own events, host visits from schoolchildren and hold events such as weddings and birthday parties on the site.

The property at 1130 Tyler St. is surrounded by Battlefield Industrial Park and is considered in the industrial zone but its farming operation preceded that designation. Agritourism is allowed there with a special-use permit.

The City Council held a public hearing on that request Tuesday. No one from the public addressed the council on the request.

Council member Kerry Devine commented on the great opportunity the farm provides for city children.

“The Snead family has done a wonderful job throughout the years,” Devine said. “It’s a wonderful way for kids to see a working farm.”

In 1937, the Sneads bought 200 acres that had been part of the historic Braehead property, which fronts Lee Drive within the Fredericksburg National Military Park.

The Sneads originally operated a dairy farm but now raise beef cattle, honey bees, chickens and some crops there.

Last July, the zoning administrator granted a temporary permit for agritourism. That permit was given pending a decision on the special-use permit.

On Tuesday, the council voted 5–0 to approve the permit after supportive comments by Devine and Councilwoman Bea Paolucci. Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and Councilman George Solley were absent.

On Tuesday, the council also held public hearings on the following requests.

•Empowerhouse, a nonprofit that provides extended emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence, is requesting a real estate tax exemption for its properties at 1705 William St. and at 3-13–313½ Wolfe St.

The public hearing was left open until May 27.

Empowerhouse is also known by NMA, a limited liability company that owns the property.

According to its application, NMA paid $4,941.72 for real estate taxes on the Wolfe Street properties since acquiring them in August 2012. NMA has not yet paid any taxes on the William Street property because it was not acquired until last December.

At the current real estate tax rate, NMA owes $3,384.76 per year on the Wolfe Street property and $2,125.28 per year on the William Street property.

City staff recommended the council not approve the exemption because the city supports the group with funds from the operating budget.

This year, Empowerhouse received $9,350 from the city. In the next budget year, which begins July 1, the council may increase that amount by $5,000.

The council can increase or decrease support through the budget without increasing the number of properties that are tax-exempt.

The council had been scheduled to discuss whether to eliminate all future exemption requests at a work session on Tuesday but the session was canceled out of respect for Greenlaw, whose husband died Friday.

•The council approved a waterline easement requested by Lincoln Terminal Co. The company needs an easement along the Dixon Park property to bring city water to its property. Lincoln Terminal purchased the former Quarles Petroleum site along Beulah Salisbury Road in January. It is converting the former propane distribution facility into a storage and distribution facility for gas, biodiesel and ethanol.

The site is on the Spotsylvania County line and beside Dixon Park and the Rappahannock River.

•Celebrate Virginia South LLC is requesting a special-use permit for an 80-bed assisted living facility on 3.42 acres on the west side of the 3000 block of Gordon W. Shelton Boulevard.

City staff recommended granting approval on the condition that the facility for patients with Alzheimer’s and other memory-related problems opens within 24 months and that it continue to operate without a 2-year stoppage.

The facility would be a one-story, 38,000-square-foot building with an interior courtyard with garden.

The council withheld action pending the creation of a formal resolution on the matter, which is to be presented May 27.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972


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