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The owners of Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards are hoping to add cottages to the nearby historic Inn at the Crossroads in Albemarle County and focus on “agritourism experiences.”
Dean Porter Andrews, with Easton Porter Group, is seeking a rezoning and special-use permit from Albemarle to add 11 cottages on the 4-acre inn property and 2.77-acre neighboring property at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Plank Road.
“We’re focusing on agritourism experiences and really returning to the original experiences one could have back 150 years ago,” Andrews said.
Ultimately the Board of Supervisors will have to approve the rezoning and special-use permit requests. Public hearings before the Planning Commission and the board are not yet scheduled.
They plan to offer cooking classes, “farm-to-table” private dining, horticultural classes, gardening, a spa and “wellness escapes” on the property, Andrews said.
He said he and his wife, Lynn Easton, will be “buying it personally” and will have it in their family trust operated as an inn.
“It’s something that will be a perpetual investment to really preserve the historic buildings and building something which really supports the rural area standards,” he said at a community meeting for the project Monday evening held via Zoom.
The Crossroads Tavern Inn is currently owned and operated by Jim and Janet Stern, who were out of town during the meeting, and is listed on the National Historic Register and has been designated a Virginia Historic Landmark.
According to its nomination form, it was built in approximately 1820 and served as a tavern and overnight lodging for farmers and travelers using the Staunton and James River Turnpike, which is now known as Plank Road. The turnpike was used as a route for farmers transporting goods to Richmond via the Kanawha Canal in Scottsville.
There are two other buildings on the site — a summer kitchen and a church that has also been used as a school and private residence.
The 11 cottages are shown on a proposed site plan behind the main inn and summer kitchen buildings, scattered up the northwestern property line next to the vineyard. The proposed plan also shows seven parking areas, greenspace, a shared-use path, internal roadways and ground-mounted solar panels.
U.S. 29 is an entrance corridor and the proposal will be reviewed by the county’s Architectural Review Board. Extra landscaping is proposed along the front and east side of the properties.
County Senior Planner Andy Reitelbach said Andrews is asking to rezone the 2.77-acre property from Village Residential to Rural Areas, and for a special-use permit covering both properties for a restaurant/tavern and inn on a property containing a historic structure.
In the county’s Comprehensive Plan, this area is labeled Rural Areas. The Comprehensive Plan guides the county’s long-term vision for land use and resource protection, and includes master plans for the designated development areas of the county. County staff and the Board of Supervisors look to the Comprehensive Plan as part of the rezoning process.
“[Rural Areas] recommends a range of uses — agricultural and forestry uses, open space, the protection of natural, historic and scenic resources, and then low-density residential development, a half a unit per acre or one unit per two acres,” Reitelbach said.
County staff will provide comments to Andrews ahead of the public hearings and a recommendation to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
At the community meeting, homeowners in the nearby Bundoran Farm development and a neighboring property owner expressed concerns about inn dwellers encroaching on their properties and using their trails, potential traffic and the landscaping of the site.
Reitelbach said the county’s transportation planning team and the Virginia Department of Transportation will review the plans.
Andrews initially said that golf carts and bikes would be provided to “travel around either Pippin Hill or around Bundoran on hikes.” He later clarified that he meant they would be provided for people to come up to the winery or for classes.
“We’re specifically not going to be inviting them to be on the Bundoran trail system,” he said.
Tony Savarese, who lives on Pippin Hill Lane, said he would like to see what landscaping will be done along the property line of the vineyard and the inn.
Matt Lovelady, the operations director at Pippin Hill, said they’re starting the process of a viewshed analysis.
“All properties that can see that area will be included in that thought process, and we’ll be sharing those findings with the greater community once it’s complete,” he said. “Hopefully over the next month or so that analysis is completed and can be shared, and then we can make further assessments of what plantings would be the most effective at that time.”
Public hearings will be scheduled in the future.