Albemarle County officials have determined that an application to build the Trump National Golf Club is incomplete and is not ready to be processed. The county had set a deadline of 5 p.m. last Thursday for all the necessary materials to be submitted before staff would start its formal review.
In July, Eric Trump, the son of the famous real estate mogul, expressed confidence that the project would move forward on 315 acres next to Trump Winery on the grounds of Albemarle House, the former estate of Patricia Kluge.
Albemarle’s planning chief, David Benish, informed Trump’s representatives in July that their special-use permit application would have to address whether a commercial golf course was consistent with an existing conservation easement on the property that is held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
The foundation is a public organization created by the Virginia General Assembly that focuses on land conservation through protective easements.
“As of Thursday, we have not received the [foundation’s] letter, so we are holding on to application and not processing it,” Benish told Charlottesville Tomorrow. “The application has been deemed incomplete and we’ll be holding on to it and processing it once that information is provided.”
“It’s premature for us to do anything until that is addressed,” said Albemarle Supervisor Ann H. Mallek.
Trump’s Aug. 17 application states that the foundation “has promised a letter indicating the project’s consistency with the … easement.”
The foundation’s executive director, Bob Lee, said in an email Aug 15 to Trump’s representatives that he anticipated that the state attorney general’s office, which represents the foundation on easement matters as a public entity, would complete its review before the end of August.
The attorney general’s office declined to comment on the status of its review, and foundation officials did not return calls seeking comment.
The easement on the property limits commercial activities and “temporary or seasonal outdoor activities” that “permanently alter the physical appearance of the property.” Trump officials maintain they are improving Kluge’s private nine-hole course designed by Arnold Palmer.
"I want to look at it carefully," said Scottsville Supervisor William "Petie" Craddock. "On the easement, well you know what you are buying when you buy it. It's a sad state of affairs if people can adjust these easements around."
Trump’s plans include an 18-hole golf course, a driving range and use of the estate’s almost 18,000-square-foot Albemarle House as a clubhouse.
Kerry Woolard is general manager of the adjacent Trump Winery.
“The county had indicated they wanted some assurance from VOF that the project can be completed within the confines of the [easement],” Woolard said Friday. “David Benish had originally indicated we wouldn’t be held up by the bureaucratic system of the VOF. However, it appears he changed his mind on that.”
“The VOF review process did not allow us to include it [in our application] but they are telling us we will have it any day,” Woolard said. “David Benish himself told us in a meeting that he would not hold us up on that.”
"I don't think I ever said that in any meeting," Benish responded. "The foundation has contacted me to let me know they are still deliberating on the letter."
Woolard was asked how the county’s decision would impact the golf course project.
“In terms of timing … it’s pretty unfortunate and we would anticipate having it put into the next cycle,” Woolard responded.
Benish said he had been asked by Trump’s attorney to drop the requirement for the VOF letter to allow the review process to continue until it arrived. He said if the application was completed in advance of the next submission deadline, it could be reviewed by the county’s Planning Commission no sooner than Nov. 12.
Trump also will have to hold a community meeting to comply with Albemarle’s new requirements for rezonings and special-use permits. The county wants applicants to receive public feedback in advance of an application coming before the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors.
In the application, Trump indicated the community meeting had already been held on July 25 “to inform the surrounding community of the proposal.”
“It was terrific. We had about 40 people in attendance and there were only two to three people who had negative comments or questions,” Woolard said. “Everyone else was super-positive and wanted to see the project move forward, and they were appreciative of what Eric and his family have done to restore the property thus far.”
Woolard said another community meeting would be held because some nearby residents were accidentally left off the invitation list.
“I have indicated to them that they will need to do another community meeting,” Benish confirmed. “The [previous invitation’s] description was to celebrate Trump Winery and it did not mention the Trump Golf Course.”
Woolard said the invitation referenced a discussion of Trump’s “future plans” for the property. She said a new date for a community meeting has not yet been set.