The Afton Depot project is still on hold after the Nelson County Board of Supervisors decided to delay making a decision on whether or not to grant a special use permit extension.
On Nov. 14, the board voted four to one to delay voting on an extension application regarding a special use permit Todd Rath, partner with Rockfish Valley, LLC, applied for last year. Tommy Harvey, vice chairman and North District representative, voted against the motion. The original SUP allows Rath to construct a three unit building on the property, which would include a farm winery, restaurant, and remote retail establishment at 9485 Rockfish Valley Highway, Afton.
Harvey said he didn’t like that the property is for sale and according to him, the site plan is confusing and not consistent each time it’s before the board.
“I don’t believe anybody’s got a full finger on what is and what’s not. I would like to see the board turn down the extension,” Harvey said.
According to county ordinances, any special use permit granted will expire after a year if no construction has been done on the property. There has been debate between Rath and the county over what counts as “construction.”
The board delayed the vote on the extension because members were unclear as to when special use permits can be resubmitted if an extension is denied.
Steve Carter, county administrator, said Rath would have to wait a year, but Harvey said according to Phil Payne, county attorney, he could reapply right away. Payne confirmed he said this via a phone call on Nov. 19.
“I did vote for it in the planning commission, but after re-looking at some of this stuff and talking to Mr. Payne and stuff, I will not support the extension,” Harvey said.
Larry Saunders, chairman and South District representative, said knowing when Rath could apply for another special use permit should his extension be denied is necessary before voting.
“I think that’s a pretty big question,” Saunders said.
Thomas Bruguiere, West District representative, agreed, saying he felt it was appropriate to wait until the next meeting to vote.
“I think it would be prudent to wait thirty days and get all the questions answered; exactly what is the proper procedure,” Bruguiere said.
Another issue that arose during the meeting was whether or not any of the special use permits or extensions would affect a new landowner, should the property be sold. According to Zillow, the property was listed for sale about two months ago. It’s currently listed at $679,000.
Three people spoke during the public comments, all of whom are against the project as a whole and urged the board to not allow the extension to go through. Margaret Flather, Philip De Jong, and Shirley McGatha all live in the area and have been vocal about their issues with the Afton Depot Project from the beginning.
Flather urged the board to deny the extension, but suggested if they approved it asked them to add stipulations to make the property look more appealing, like asking Rath to clean up the trash on the property and building a fence.
“Think about using this as an opportunity to get some real work done on the property and attach some restrictions to it,” Flather said.
De Jong said considering the property is for sale and that no action has been taken on the permits throughout the duration of the project, the extension request should be denied.
“I encourage you to just not extend this at this point for those two obvious reasons,” De Jong said.
McGatha, whose home borders the property, said she was concerned for her privacy and the increased traffic along Virginia 151.
“I would hope that you would consider keeping Afton rural,” McGatha said.
Rath was not present for Thursday’s meeting.
Another public hearing will not be held and the board will consider the extension application again at its December meeting.