As a founding member of the Fauquier Countryside Preservation Group, I would like to share my thoughts on the proposed Lodge at Barrel Oak project in Delaplane. This group, which includes Citizens for Fauquier County, Goose Creek Association, Mosby Heritage Area Association and neighbors near the project, was formed to oppose this 42-room hotel, restaurant and event operation because commercial operations should not be allowed in an area zoned rural/agricultural.
This project is detrimental for many reasons. Let me begin with Fauquier County’s comprehensive plan and its focus on locating commercial activities in its eight service districts. Because our county leaders have been largely steadfast in adhering to this plan, 90 percent of our county is rural and this contributes to $180 million in economic activity and approximately 2,000 jobs related to tourism. Approving this project could lead to similar commercial businesses outside the service districts throughout the county, destroy our beautiful countryside, and threaten a robust rural economy that benefits everyone who lives in Fauquier.
Let’s turn to the project itself. Besides being in the wrong place, the application lacks so much information that the magnitude of the traffic, well water, and other adverse impacts are unclear. The scale of the operation is particularly vague as relates to the number of total outdoor and indoor events that would be held. And very little information has been submitted on the layout of the 32,000 square foot “lodge” and what the structure would look like other than a Photoshopped image of the existing home on the property, which would be expanded four-fold to house the hotel, restaurant and event center.
I am particularly concerned about those who live near this growing tourism hub. The neighbors already have to deal with excessive traffic and noise from the many thousands who visit the adjacent Barrel Oak and neighboring Blue Valley wineries annually, and the thousands more who attend the many special events these wineries hold. The 78 annual special events (for up to 160 persons each) requested as part of the “lodge” project would almost double the number of events being held. Approval of this project would make a bad situation worse.
Back in June, Brian Roeder, the applicant for the “lodge” project and an owner of Barrel Oak Winery, held a public meeting attended by approximately 90 people, many of whom live near his winery. When he asked if they supported his project, approximately 90 percent said they were not in favor of it. Many spoke about the noise, traffic and viewshed impacts of the Barrel Oak Winery, and strongly opposed more tourism-related development near their homes.
In closing, I would point to the Rural Lands Plan that the county recently adopted. It emphasizes that commercial uses should not be allowed in rural areas, and tourism-related facilities should not detract from the rural qualities of the areas where they are located.
For all the reasons cited above, I believe the county should reject the “lodge” project.
Kevin Ramundo is a former corporate executive who lives in Upperville, serves on the board of Citizens for Fauquier County, and is an advocate for preservation and conservation in the region.