A farm off Hydraulic Road in Albemarle County will be able to hold some types of events after years of trying.
A zoning clearance was approved for Roslyn Farm & Vineyard that would allow amplified music, harvest-your-own activities, educational programs, farm-to-table meals and farm stand sales up to 24 times a year with 200 attendees or fewer. A bed-and-breakfast also operates on the property under a separate approval.
On Tuesday, the Albemarle County Board of Zoning Appeals heard an appeal of the zoning clearance by neighbors such as John Wright, who called Roslyn a “window-dressing farm.”
The board tied 2-2 in a vote to deny the appeal, with one seat vacant. At least three affirmative votes are required to reverse any appeal from a decision or determination of an administrative officer.
Board member Ed Robb, who supported the zoning appeal, said he had stopped by the property and talked to one of the owners about the farm.
“I’m not a city boy, I’m not really a country guy, either, but that was not a farm, in my opinion,” Robb said.
David Bowerman, another board member who voted to reject the appeal, said he thought the application met all of the relevant requirements of the zoning ordinance.
“I think I understand the concerns of the neighbors, but I don’t think that this rises to the level it needs to be to override the decision of the staff,” he said.
Certain agritourism activities and events in the county’s rural areas at an agricultural operation do not need any special permission to occur, and others require a zoning clearance or a special-use permit, according to the county’s zoning ordinance.
A zoning clearance is administratively approved by county staff, while a special-use permit is ultimately approved by the county Board of Supervisors.
County staff said that once an applicant meets a list of requirements —which includes verifying parking, meeting Virginia Department of Transportation entrance standards, health department approval and checking sound application requirements, among other things — the application for a zoning clearance gets approved.
“The zoning ordinance requirements, whether we like it or hate it as staff, we don’t have a choice,” said Bart Svoboda, the county’s chief of zoning. “It’s either what we call a fair ball or foul ball — if it meets the requirements, we have to approve it; if it doesn’t, then we deny it.”
Pete Caramanis, an attorney representing the Wrights, said county staff has the discretion to make sure that the requirements for a specific clearance are met.
“Frankly, the concern of the appellant is that, had that type of thing been done, the county would’ve seen that the requisite agriculture use in this property in order to be granted this clearance doesn’t actually exist,” he said.
During a public hearing, about 10 people spoke out against the project, citing noise and traffic on Lambs and Roslyn Heights roads and questioning whether there was actually a farm on the property.
Spencer Gay, who lives at the end of Lambs Road, said any events would affect his ability to get to his house and back out.
“Ever since this farm has changed hands, Lambs Road has changed in its nature,” he said. “There have been dump trucks up and down the road for two and a half years, spewing clay all over the road.”
Neighbor Mike Farabaugh said he was concerned about traffic and compliance issues, citing times he tried to call the county’s zoning complaint hotline and never heard back.
“That system’s broken right now,” he said. “Before this goes any further, I think that system should be fixed before these events are allowed.”
The Wrights said they were unsure if they would appeal the Board of Zoning Appeals decision. If they did, the appeal would go through the Albemarle County Circuit Court.