Albemarle Planning Commission to Consider Expanding Vision of Rural Economic Sustainability



By. Neil Williamson, President

If you want to build a high end exclusive local food bistro in Albemarle County’s rural areas, you are out of luck – in most cases they are prohibited. 

converted wisconsin barnIf you want to convert your historic barn into a unique bed and breakfast, no dice in  Albemarle.

Care to use your existing detached dependency as a free standing room for rent – not in Albemarle.

But should they be prohibited?  Don’t we have local examples of good design and implementation that could increase the rural areas financial viability and create jobs?

Tuesday night (11/29) the Albemarle County Planning Commission will be discussing this very concept of improving the economic vitality options for rural land owners.  As 95% of Albemarle County is rural, this issue is a critical component of the Comprehensive Plan.

The Free Enterprise Forum has researched several local tourism uses in adjacent localities and is asking the Albemarle County Planning Commission why these uses should not be provided to Albemarle’s rural landowners.

The Guest House at Stone Mountain Vineyards.  When this Greene County property owner learned that the historic,  one- roomguesthouse at Stone Mountain Vineyards schoolhouse located directly adjacent to their property was going up for sale, they chose to renovate the structure into a unique mountain getaway.  Despite repeated claims that the structure is haunted by a young school marm, the Old Schoolhouse is rented almost every weekend May-December. 

Barboursville cottegeAnother example of adaptive reuse is the Cottages at Barboursville Vineyards (Orange County) 18th-Century brick servants’ quarters and the estate’s former private schoolhouse, screened by the ancient boxwoods of The 1804 Inn, the Cottages have been renovated to 21st Century standards of comfort, including air-conditioning and individual kitchen, while carefully preserving their irreplaceable charm.

Because these historic properties never served as an inn, they would not be permitted to operate in Albemarle County under current regulations.   Staff is recommending that this condition be reconsidered, the Free Enterprise Forum believes it should go even further. 

Regardless of historic designation, alternative uses of dependencies should not only be allowed but should be encouraged.  We have seen great success with adaptive reuse of country stores why not dependencies and other agricultural buildings?  How would the impacts on the rural areas be different due to their previous use?

Blue Mountain Brewery in Nelson County has just expanded theirblue mountain brewery Groundbreaking restaurant/tasting room. and on October 20th they broke ground on their first phase of new production space.  Nelson County Life reports:

Blue Mountain Barrel House and Organic Brewery is a 10,000 square foot production-only facility for the 10 lines of Blue Mountain beer that will be kegged or bottled in 750ml corked bottles and undergo 100% natural refermentation. These beers will be USDA certified organic and will tend toward the more “specialty” end of Blue Mountain’s beer production spectrum. Beers brewed will include the popular Dark Hollow Bourbon-Barrel Aged Stout and Mandolin, but will also introduce new styles such as an imperial pilsner and a barrel-aged Belgian-inspired ale.

Staff highlighted several differences between microbreweries and wineries including water use and use of crops grown locally.  Blue Mountain Brewery would not be welcome in Albemarle’s rural area.  The Free Enterprise Forum understands staff concern regarding water use, but believes such use could be regulated.

palladio-front-entrancePalladio Restaurant is another example of an Orange County rural use that is not allowed in Albemarle.  Located on the grounds of Barboursville Vineyards, Palladio offers high end northern Italian cuisine paired with Barboursville wines.  A glance at just a portion of their lunch menu starts your mouth watering:

Secondi Piatti / Second Courses

~ Piatto Vegetariano ~
Spaghetti Squash Cake
Butter Bean Purée, Fried Sweet Potatoes, Local Watercress

~ Pollo Farcito ~
Oven Roasted Chicken
Stuffed with Chestnuts, Apples, Pancetta
Soft Polenta & Braised Greens

~ Brasato di Maiale ~
Braised Pork Shoulder
Caramelized Brussel Sprouts, Roasted Acorn Squash
Stone Ground Mustard-Sage Jus

~ Costine di Manzo ~
Braised Beef Short Rib "Osso Buco" Style
Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Carrots, Roasted Onions
Braising Jus

~ Pesce del Giorno ~
Cabernet-Orange Poached Cod
Crispy Potato Cake, Wilted Red Cabbage Salad
Orange Vinaigrette

• Barboursville Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007 •

Chef Melissa Close has proven over ten years that a restaurant located at a winery can be hugely successful.  Unless you are in Albemarle County where such use is forbidden.

Regardless of the fare, rural area restaurants can provide an excellent connection from farm to table.

The Free Enterprise Forum calls on the Planning Commission to outline the specific impacts such destinations might create in the rural areas and work to mitigate the impacts in a manner that goes gentle on the land but also recognizes the economic viability of agritainment. 

It is important to remember that these agritainment ideas and the land that supports them is reducing the services that could be demanded by residential use of the same land.  If we preserve the rural vistas, retain the rural character and add a dose of economic vitality, the entire community wins.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website


Photo Credits: University of Wisconsin, Stone Mountain Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, Blue Mountain Brewery, Trip Advisor, Charlottesville Tomorrow


One response

  1. Neil, very well done. We appreciate your insight in this matter. Some of the most wonderful memories my wife and I have had are at establishments like these! Next time, however, leave out the menu, I’m drooling! 🙂 Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: