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A request from the owners of Roslyn Farm in Albemarle County to hold as many as 24 events a year prompted scores of people to attend a community meeting Monday to ask questions about the idea.
“As a sixth-generation farmer living in 2018, agriculture diversity and sustainability are two aspects not only important to us, but also the ‘buy local’ movement, as well,” said Richard Fox, who has applied for a special-use permit along with his wife, Alexia Richards.
“Each and every one of our 24 events will incorporate a majority of our farm products, custom grown for the clients,” he added.
Fox and Richards have been seeking permission to hold events such as weddings and corporate retreats at a “manor house” on their farm.
“We keep hearing how detrimental it is that we are within the urban ring and that our farm is too small to be a real farm,” said Richards. “Or too small to be deserving of property rights.”
The 24-acre property is on Roslyn Heights Road on the western side of Hydraulic Road, just outside of the county’s growth area.
“Special events always require a special-use permit,” said county planner Scott Clark. “A special-use permit is a legislative action from the Board of Supervisors.”
Clark said at least three special-use permits for events in the rural area have been granted by the Board of Supervisors, including one at Panorama Farms. The permit process is intended to take the needs of each property into consideration.
County rules require applicants seeking special-use permits or rezonings to hold a meeting with nearby landowners. This community meeting is intended to be a chance for people who live by a potential land use change to get information on both the project and the process.
Nearly 1,100 people have signed an online petition in support of Roslyn Farm’s request.
Community meetings are usually held by the county’s growth advisory committees. The petition notes that Roslyn Farm is not within the boundaries of the Places29-Hydraulic Committee but Fox and Richards agreed to take part in a community meeting hosted by that group anyway.
Public hearings will be scheduled before both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. No dates have been set yet.
Clark said special-use permits run with the land and are permanent.
“There have been a few rare cases where the board has approved a special-use permit with a time limit,” Clark said. “They are almost always subject to restrictions.”
The property includes a bed and breakfast, which Richards said has hosted thousands of guests over the years. She said unlike other destinations in the county, Roslyn Farm is close to amenities.
Richards said holding events would be an extension of the bed and breakfast.
If granted, event guests would enter the site from a farm entrance on Lambs Road rather than from Roslyn Heights Road. Additionally, she said they would hire the county Sheriff’s Office to help regulate traffic during events.
“We all know that while this is a rural area property by definition, between a four-lane road, the schools and the encroaching development, we are surrounded by quite a bit of ambient noise,” Richards said. “As the owners of this property, we are committed to ensuring that the noise from special events complies with Albemarle County’s zoning ordinance.”
Richards said the proposal met with her interpretation of the Comprehensive Plan.
“In the rural area chapter of the plan, it is stated that the county should encourage creative and diverse forms of rural production and support for land uses that provide landowners with economic viability,” Richards said.
Neighbors were concerned about traffic on Lambs Road, as well as noise from the events.
Richards and Fox said they have hired a sound engineer to develop a noise management plan. They also have reached out for advice from Keswick Vineyards, a venue that had secured a special-use permit before the General Assembly passed legislation that specifically allowed wineries to hold events.
The couple also is planning to grow grapes to become a winery. The name on their website already is listed as Roslyn Farm & Vineyard.
Several neighbors appeared at the event to complain about impacts from the existing bed and breakfast. One couple on Roslyn Heights Road said they were concerned that more guests would mean more knocks on their door from people looking for directions.
“We’re your neighbors here,” said another man who lives on Lambs Road. “I understand you have a business to run and you need to make money, but we chose this place as a peaceful place to live in the middle of the city.”