By Pauline O. Hovey, Greene County Field Officer
Bruce Shifflett, owner of Lydia Mountain Lodge & Cabins, returned to the Greene County Planning Commissioners last night to receive their approval of a special use permit, which would allow him to add outdoor recreational activities to his Mountain Laurel Pass property.
The property is zoned C-1, Conservation, and as such, the zoning ordinances require usage meet certain guidelines and standards. Shifflett first presented his request to the Planning Commission in May 2010 and has since been modifying his original plans in order to accommodate the original intent of the ordinances and decrease any adverse impact to the area or environment.
In the revised application, Shifflett is currently seeking to add a rock-climbing wall, non-motorized biking/hiking trails, rope courses, two lanes—down from the originally proposed eight—of all-season tubing, and one, rather than two, zip lines with an ATV trail to return guests to the top of the mountain. Use of the recreational activities would be limited to guests of the Lydia Mountain Lodge & Cabins rentals. In addition, he plans to expand the lodge from 10 to 20 rooms.
Greene County Planning Director Bart Svoboda reported he had met with a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) official at the property to walk the roadway and determine the impact of the proposed expansion of the lodge and the special use request. In VDOT’s opinion, such usage would not generate enough trip changes to require any improvements to the road based on the original approval.
Svoboda and Greene County Planner Stephanie Golon offered their written report to the commissioners stating that staff supports the lodge, cabins, and proposed amenities, noting the changes are an environmentally friendly use of the land and would create jobs and sales tax revenue, in addition to providing other possible benefits to the community.
Several residents spoke in favor of the special use permit, including three neighbors. Two neighbors spoke against approval of the permit, other opponents have spoken at previous meetings and have written letters to the commissioners against the permit.
Although all commissioners agreed that Shifflett was to be commended for the changes he had made to his original proposal and for his contributions to the community, they disagreed on interpretation of the zoning ordinances for a property zoned C-1 and the adverse effect granting this permit would have on neighboring properties. Those against expressed concerns such as the impact of ATVs on the mountainside, appropriate use of C-1 property, and the possible misuse of the permit by future owners should Shifflett sell the property.
Commissioners Davis Lamb, Anthony Herring, and Frank Steele approved the special use permit amendment application with certain conditions. Chairman Norman Slezak and Vice Chairman Bill Martin voted against granting the permit. The matter will now move to the Board of Supervisors.