Plans for a restaurant in Afton have been delayed further after the Nelson County Board of Supervisors decided to hold off on making any decisions regarding the most recent special use permit request relating to the Afton Depot project.
Last year Todd Rath, partner with Rockfish Valley Events, LLC, submitted a special use permit request to construct an Asian-fusion style restaurant inside an existing building at 9485 Rockfish Valley Highway in Afton. After hitting a number of roadblocks including two appeals filed regarding decisions made over definitions in the county ordinance, the request finally made it before the board of supervisors for a final decision on June 11. The board voted 4 to 1 to defer action until its July meeting. Ernie Reed, Central District representative, voted against the motion.
The board voted to wait because of an appeal filed by property owners neighboring the proposed Afton Depot project. The three property owners are appealing a decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals to uphold former Planning and Zoning Director Sandy Shackelford’s determination that the proposed building can hold a new use, despite not meeting front setback requirements. The board of supervisors members agreed it was hard to vote on something while a court case was pending that could change the entire request.
“I think the outcome of the court case is really vital because I believe our planner and county attorney got it wrong; that non-conforming means non- conforming,” Reed said.
Reed, Larry Saunders, South District representative and chair of the board, and the rest of the board agreed with East District representative Jesse Rutherford’s suggestion to delay a decision.
“I’d like to see this move ahead, I’m pro-business and I’d like to see business out there. Pending court cases, I don’t see how we can move on this personally,” Saunders said.
Thomas Bruguiere, West District representative, suggested Rath apply to rezone the property to business in order to negate setback requirements and allow the building to go forward by-right or demolish the structure and reconstruct it so that it does meet setback requirements on agriculturally zoned property.
“Of course, we have a court case so whatever we do may be moot so I don’t know,” Bruguiere said.
Neighbors Philip DeJong and Jeri Lloyd spoke at the public hearing, urging the board to not make any decisions until the appeal regarding this specific special use permit had been heard in court. No date has been set yet for this case.
The original application was submitted Nov. 29, 2018. The Nelson County Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on Jan. 23 and deferred action. On Feb. 27, the planning commission completed its recommendation and voted 5 to 1 to deny the request on grounds it didn’t comply with the setback requirement. On March 26, an appeal was filed regarding the determination by Shackelford, stating the structure could hold a new use. On May 6, the BZA upheld her determination. On June 4, three individuals filed a writ of appeal to the circuit court to appeal the BZA decision.
The board of supervisors will consider the SUP request again in July.
Currently, Rath has a special use permit to construct a three-room building on the property, which is planned to hold a remote farm winery tasting room, a farm winery, and a restaurant.
An SUP request for multiple cabins on the property has been denied, but on June 11 Rath said he will pursue the lodging aspect of the development by-right. In early 2019, Shackelford said Rath can build lodging by-right if he changes his current lodging plan to meet the requirements.
Rath has filed an appeal regarding the decision to declare his first special use permit approved in September 2017 expired, which gave him permission for the three-unit building as well as the lodging. The appeal is still pending in circuit court.
Erin Conway covers Nelson County for the News and Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.