The special use permit that greenlit a portion of the Afton Depot Project last year has been extended.

In September 2018, Todd Rath, partner with Rockfish Valley Events, LLC, received approval of a special use permit from the county to build a three-unit structure including a farm winery, permanent remote retail establishment and restaurant at 9485 Rockfish Valley Highway. The permit was set to expire, which prompted Rath to submit an extension request.

“I am here for an extension of your favorite permit that’s been kicking around this board and every board in the county for two years,” Rath said.

On Oct. 23, the planning commission voted 4-2 to recommend approval to the Nelson County Board of Supervisors. Philippa Proulx, North District representative, and Mark Stapleton, Central District representative, voted against the motion.

A special use permit expires when the county determines no construction has been done to make progress on whatever the SUP was for. According to Director of Planning and Zoning Dylan Bishop, County Attorney Phil Payne said “any construction of a building” will keep an SUP from expiring.

Another special use permit was deemed expired in 2018 although Rath had dug a well on the property.

“I wish we had a criteria for this,” Michael Harman, West District representative, said. “It would be good if we had a criteria to establish what we use to deny or approve an extension. Right now, I don’t have a clue.”

Mary Kathryn Allen, chair of the board and South District representative, said she wanted to make sure they were being fair and even across the board when recommending or not recommending approval of extensions.

“What is considered construction?” Allen said. “We’ve had this discussion before. Whatever we are saying we are doing it fairly across the board.”

The property Rath planned to construct the Afton Depot Project on for the past two years is currently up for sale. According to Zillow, an online real estate database, the 17 acres along Virginia 151 is priced at $679,000.

“I believe Rockfish Orchard and other neighbors want a better neighbor, so let’s try and find them a better neighbor,” Rath said at the meeting. Rath said interested buyers have included an organic pig farmer from Pennsylvania and farm wineries from Northern Virginia.

“If we can’t, we’re going to continue with our project,” Rath said.

The Nelson County Board of Supervisors will review the request at its Nov. 14 meeting.

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Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.

Erin Conway covers Nelson County. Reach her at (434) 385-5524 or econway@newsadvance.com.

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