VERONA — Agents representing the new owners of the Shenandoah Acres Family Campground told the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals they have no plans to change the family-oriented aspect of the Stuarts Draft resort.
But several neighbors of the 132.5-acre campground complained during a public hearing Thursday of loud music and what they say are unsightly views of recreational vehicles and campsites. Many also complained they feel the once seasonal campground has become permanent housing for too many.
While the board agreed to allow the applicant, SA Hold Co. LLC, to continue the use of an existing special-use permit for the site, the five-member panel also added and maintained several conditions, including limiting the number of extended-stay sites.
SA Hold Co. asked for the permit to continue renting out four cottages and the 14-room lodge for recreational use, as well as to continue to have a seasonal restaurant at the resort’s beach house when it takes ownership of the campground.
The applicant also asked to increase the number of extended stay sites, which allow campers to occupy a site for more than 240 days. By county ordinance, a campground can have up to 30% of its available campsites as extended stays, which would mean as many as 137 of Shenandoah Acres’ total.
But the board, when approving the permit, voted to keep the number of extended-stay sites at 35 as it had previously done.
That last request by the applicant drew fire from several neighbors, who complained the campground was becoming “a permanent year-round housing development.”
Responding to a question from the board, the applicants and current owner, Garland Eutsler, said relatively few if any people renting an extended site actually live at the campground year-round. Instead, they said, many campers may park their recreational vehicles there and visit throughout the year.
Eustler said power and water are shut off to the other campsites when the season ends in October. A few staff members live in the cottages and his mother also plans to continue to live in one of the units, he said.
According to the applicant, SA Hold Co. also checks campers’ criminal background, including looking for sex or drug crime convictions, as part of its corporate policy. In addition, the new owners said they will hire additional security for the campground.
Eutsler’s company purchased the campground from Good Faith LLC in 2014 and reopened the resort’s lake that had been closed for a dozen years. In 2017, the Acres Eatery restaurant opened in the beach house.
The campground dates to the 1930s, when Rupert and Helen Blacka purchased the property, and began operating in the 1940s, according to county staff. Staff also noted the campground has increased from 110 to 456 campsites in just five years.
A major sticking point for a number of neighbors was loud music they said is played throughout the day.
One neighbor, Bob Shipp, who resides off Lake Road, delivered a petition with more than 85 signatures from residents living around the campground. Shipp asked the board to remove permission for any amplified music.
“We as neighbors need some assurances that [they] won’t be interrupted by amplified music … to restore the peace and tranquility we had enjoyed,” he said, adding that, “Absent that, we ask that [the permit] be reviewed annually.”
Although other property owners asked that the decision be delayed to give the board and neighbors more time to get more answers to questions that had been posed, the panel voted 5-0 to OK the permit.
The board, however, agreed to add a condition to review the permit annually. Also, the owner must plant 6-foot evergreen trees along one area of the campground known as the White Oak Section to shield neighbors from the view of RVs and campsites that can now be seen from the roadside. The trees are to be planted by Dec. 1 and maintained, according to the board.
Also, the board maintained a requirement that amplified music can only be played once a week to end by 10:30 p.m.