Campground approved by 6-2 vote

Published 6:00 am Thursday, July 23, 2020

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The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted 6-2, with provisions, Tuesday, July 14, to approve a request made by Michael and Elizabeth Dowler for a special use permit to construct and operate a campground and outdoor recreational facilities near 2704 Charleswood Lane, off Persimmon Tree Fork Road in Farmville.

Pattie Cooper-Jones

One of the key provisions was that the county receives a copy of all permits related to the project.

The board’s vote followed a public hearing in which three members of the public spoke in opposition to the project, and one person spoke in favor of it.

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According to graphics in the board meeting packet depicting the land in question, the campground and facilities for Appomattox River Adventures LLC (ARA) will be spread out over a 52-acre area. The area will include a picnic area with a grill and tables, two single-room cabins with electric and sewer, a private cabin, a bathhouse, an office/store, a playground, a dump station, a pavilion, travel trailer sites and multiple primitive campsites.

In his memo to the board, Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett stated that concerns voiced by those in opposition included the safety and navigability of the access road, increased traffic, infringement on the neighboring property and concerns about the flood plain adjacent to the river. These concerns were conveyed to the Prince Edward County Planning Commission and in written correspondence and were echoed in public comments.

Bartlett noted that when consulted, the Virginia Department of Transportation had expressed no concerns about the traffic on Persimmon Tree Fork Road. And county staff said that the access road known as Charleswood Lane was a private landowner matter.

Cooper-Jones questioned the Dowlers about part of their rules and regulations for Appomattox River Adventures.

The rules and regulations document stated ARA is not responsible for any damages due to wind, fire, water or any other act of God. ARA assumes no responsibility for damage to a guest’s property while at ARA, including but not limited to falling tree limbs. ARA is not responsible for theft.

“One of my concerns is it seems that they have no responsibility for anything,” Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones said.

Elizabeth Dowler responded by saying they will be keeping the campgrounds as safe as possible for people and will be clearing the trees that fall and will be part of the efforts to clear the waterway and make it navigable. She said they will be promoting conservation and will continue to be involved in trash pickup. She noted there will be signage letting people know of the risks, and they will be keeping track of how many guests are on the property and who is in each party.

Farmville 801 District Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones and Hampden District Supervisor Dr. Odessa Pride voted in opposition of the project.

Cooper-Jones said Thursday, July 16, that she has visited the property and said the concerns of neighbors are legitimate, noting that in a big rainstorm, people could get bogged down in mud on the access road.

“My concern is for safety, and you’re calling it a primitive campground, which is basically some kind of little tents or whatever set up down there, and the other people that own property right there, they have a right to be concerned because there’s not going to be any guidance,” she said. “There are no rules, and people are just going to be wandering all over the place of their own free will. So to me that’s a concern. That’s definitely a concern.”

During the July 14 meeting, Betty Jo Smith Toombs, an adjoining property owner to the project, highlighted for the board the crooked, one-lane dirt access road, noting it needs to be developed, which could be quite expensive. She said she thinks the whole ARA project is going to be a huge endeavor and likely costly to herself and neighbors.

“I really don’t think this is going to draw the kind of tourism that Prince Edward is looking for or the interest to invest this kind of money,” she said. “And I also think it’d be a liability to the county.”

Speaking in favor of ARA was Damien Fehrer, a member of the Friends of the Appomattox River and one of the individuals who spearheaded the development of the Farmville Blueway Paddle Trail, which is a protected stream corridor maintained for recreational canoeing and kayaking.

“A recreational facility that will allow public access to the Appomattox River would be great anywhere, but their location is almost ideal,” he said, referencing the Dowlers. “Their property is about two-thirds of the way between Farmville and High Bridge. That makes it about a two-hour paddle from Farmville and a one-hour paddle from their place to High Bridge.

“Canoe and kayak trips that are that length are ideal for recreational paddlers, especially persons who want to visit the town and want to take just a couple of hours to get out on the river,” he added.

Tara and Joseph Brinkley spoke in opposition to ARA and responded to some of Fehrer’s points. Tara Brinkley said they live on River Road on the Cumberland County side of the river and that the Dowlers’ land is essentially their backyard.

She said she and her husband are part of Friends of the Appomattox River and are avid canoers. They love to use the Appomattox, which she described as a very small, intimate river.

“Past the bridge heading down towards where they’re proposing this campground to be, which is our backyard, it’s not navigable most of the time, and it’s not just an hour or two trip,” she said. “If the river is high, it is. But it is not mostly navigable. There is a great deal of flooding, a huge amount of flooding. There is a great amount of trees that come down. It is not an easy canoe trip. It is not going to be for the novice kayaker to be able to travel down.”

In other public hearings of note,

• The board unanimously granted a request by Rock & Metal LLC for a special use permit to amend the special use permit to expand the 30 approved construction campsites to 80 construction camps on Tax Map Parcel 023B-1-V, with an address of 300A SMI Way in Farmville and to convert to permanent campsites after the construction project is completed.

• The board unanimously granted a request by the Prince Edward County Industrial Development Authority to amend the county zoning ordinance to allow data centers as a by right permitted use in the C-1, General Commercial Zoning District, and the I-1, General Industrial District, and add a definition of data centers.

• The board unanimously granted a request by the Prince Edward County Industrial Development Authority for a rezoning of Tax Map Parcel 039-A-3, near 230 Kelly Lane in Farmville from A-2, Agricultural Residential, to C-1, Commercial.

• The board unanimously granted a request by Robert Llewellyn/Northern Manufacturing & Firearm Sales LLC to add ammunition and firearm manufacturing as a use included in the Industry, Type I use definition and to allow Industry, Type I uses to operate by a special use permit in the C-1, General Commercial Zoning District.

• The board voted 7-1 to grant a request by Robert Llewellyn/Northern Manufacturing & Firearm Sales LLC for a special use permit to allow for an ammunition and firearm manufacturing facility on Tax Map Parcel 022-A-1-24, with an address of 3194 W. 3rd St. in Farmville.