Riverside B&B, events venue proposed in Varina

The modern-style renovated farmhouse that would anchor the proposed bed-and-breakfast. (Courtesy of the Virginia Inn)

A plan for what would be the first bed-and-breakfast and events venue in Varina is getting pushback from neighbors who are raising concerns about potential noise and traffic impacts.

Varina resident Jocelyn Senn is looking to use her riverside home and adjacent properties she’s acquired off Osborne Turnpike to open The Virginia Inn, which would be the first of its kind in Varina and only the third in Henrico, according to the county.

Senn is applying for a provisional-use permit to allow the new uses, which would center on an adjacent farmhouse that she recently renovated at 1520 Rustling Cedar Lane. The combined property, at 9128 Osborne Turnpike, stretches between the river and the turnpike south of its intersection with Battery Hill Drive, about a mile north of the Osborne boat landing and the Lilly Pad Café.

A map of the property site. (Courtesy of Henrico County)

The county Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the request at its next meeting Dec. 10, having deferred it this month to allow Senn time to provide additional details, such as how she would mitigate sound and traffic impacts on neighboring residential properties.

Such impacts are highlighted on an opposition website called “Don’t Venue Varina,” which encourages property owners to communicate concerns about the proposal with county officials. The site includes a map suggesting a majority of nearby property owners have voiced concerns about the project.

Senn, who has posted her own website detailing the proposal and her application to the county, said the opposition runs counter to feedback she received when she initially reached out to neighbors about her plans. On Monday, she was preparing to present those plans in a community meeting that evening, rescheduled from a previous date in October.

The 16-acre site would include six venue options with varying event capacities. (Courtesy of Henrico County)

“I know there’s a lot of people all up in arms about it. People are like, ‘She’s going to change the rural nature of Varina.’ Well, we are the rural nature of Varina,” said Senn, who has owned her residence there since the mid-1990s. “We are that character, and we’re trying to preserve that.”

Since purchasing her home in 1994, Senn, who owns Richmond-based picture frame shop PopMount, has acquired three adjacent properties that would be part of the project, including the adjacent farmhouse property, which she bought in 2017 and restored in the years since with the concept in mind.

“If the people (had) said no, we are absolutely going to oppose you, I would have never gone down this road,” Senn said. “It was three years of my life developing that house, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think we have something really beautiful to share with our community, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

As proposed, the property would host as many as 60 events per year, including weddings, family reunions, anniversaries and receptions. The property would be designed with six venue options, five of those outdoor and one indoor. Maximum capacities for each venue range from 50 to 250 guests, according to Senn’s application with the county.

Jocelyn Senn’s residence would be used to house some guests. (Photos courtesy of the Virginia Inn)

The B&B would total five guest bedrooms between the 3,400-square-foot farmhouse and Senn’s Cape Cod-style house, which totals 1,400 square feet. The property also includes two barns, walking trails and parking areas for guests, and dock access to a pond that’s shared with neighboring properties. The site also features 1.4 miles of river frontage, also with dock access.

In a staff report to the commission, county planners said the proposal could help promote tourism in Varina, noting the site’s proximity to the historic Route 5 corridor, the Virginia Capital Trail, national battlefields and the river.

But they also noted the site is surrounded by large-lot residential properties that could be impacted by outdoor events. In light of that, planners asked Senn to provide details on how she would mitigate impacts, such as through restrictions on frequency of events, number of guests, access, hours of operation and noise.

In Monday’s community meeting, which stretched over two hours, many of Senn’s immediate neighbors and other nearby residents spoke in opposition to the proposal, several citing bad experiences with gatherings that Senn has hosted on her property in the past. One property owner said he’d sell the land where he planned to build his dream home if the project goes forward.

If approved, The Virginia Inn would join another events venue recently permitted along the river. In Goochland County, the former River Run Manor has been converted into The Estate at River Run, which started operations this year.

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Wendy Smith
Wendy Smith
1 month ago

Many of the surrounding residents do not have an issue with just a simple B&B, we do have a problem with the idea of having weddings and other large events on a property where there are houses 50 feet from some of the proposed event sites. One house is surrounded on 3 sides by proposed event sites. No one would want to deal with that every weekend when they are home trying to enjoy their house and property. Ms. Senn should have known she was going to get pushback as many of the surrounding residents pushed back years ago when… Read more »

Dan Walker
Dan Walker
1 month ago

Readers should visit dontvenuevarina.com for an opposing viewpoint. I live right next to this proposed venue and contrary to her statements referenced in this article, Ms Senn has never reached out to me for feedback. My neighbors will say the same thing. This is a residential neighborhood, and is no place for a major commercial venture envisioned by this proposal.

Matt Dellinger
Matt Dellinger
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Walker

It’s my understanding that there is a document you signed agreeing with this project, now it doesn’t fit exactly what you had in mind for someone else’s property?

Dan Walker
Dan Walker
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Dellinger

Matt,
In 2015 I agreed that I would not oppose a one-house bed and breakfast on Jocelyn’s property. There was never any mention of this multi-house B&B or a commercial wedding venue of this scale. The proposed PUP is far and above what Jocelyn represented to me at that time. I am still not opposed to a quiet B&B, but it should be in accordance with the county regulations.

Max Walraven
Max Walraven
1 month ago

It comes down to one simple fact: This is a permissible use of the property according to County zoning regulations.
Her neighbors and biggest opponents are ILLEGALLY hosting Airbnb’s and weddings. Jocelyn is doing it correctly with the proper permits, licensing, and insurance. There are much worse uses of the property allowable under this particular zoning. People should do their diligence when buying property and understand what is allowable within that particular zoning. Varina is blooming and Jocelyn is at the forefront of tasteful development and stewardship. I hope she prevails.

Wendy Smith
Wendy Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Max Walraven

A B&B is permitted according to the County zoning regulations, an event venue is not. Also, the fact that Jocelyn has already been hosting weddings shows that she is is not doing it correctly with the proper permits etc.

Max Walraven
Max Walraven
1 month ago
Reply to  Wendy Smith

Having friends get married for a photoshoot in your yard isn’t illegal. I was personally at the last wedding and it was not a paid event. Just mutual friends needing an outdoor space due to Covid.

Kendra Morris
Kendra Morris
1 month ago
Reply to  Max Walraven

You sure it wasn’t paid? I mean, if someone’s going to go around doing free weddings just for fun why would said person already have a dedicated site on The Wedding Wire stating that weddings receptions on the property begin at $4500?

Eileen Edmonds
Eileen Edmonds
1 month ago
Reply to  Max Walraven

I absolutely have to agree with Max Walravens comment. I’ve watched Jocelyn Senn develop her property. It’s just beautiful and well thought out. She has consistently made a point of letting me and many of her friends, family and their guests know how important it’s been to her to share the beauty of the River Life. My observation over the last 15 years is that Ms. Senn is a also a conscientious Steward of her property. I support her vision and suggest that more Varina neighbors and residents support her. In the future they could even look to utilize her… Read more »

Kate Fletcher
Kate Fletcher
1 month ago
Reply to  Eileen Edmonds

Seriously Eileen?? I applaud Jocelyn’s efforts to preserve the property and welcome a B&B. A multi hundred person venue location is not preserving the property and I do not support that. Would you want to live next door to a wedding venue??

Chris Malo
Chris Malo
1 month ago

As the neighbor who is surrounded on 3 side by this event venue so I recognize I have bias. My wife an I will be moving back into the home soon to start our family. I am not anti-development, in fact the opposite I fully support such great local businesses as the Lily-Pad . I would also fully support this venture on one of Varinas many large farms. This unfortunately is not that, this is a events venue just 50 feet from some peoples bedrooms in a residential neighborhood. NO other Events Venue in the area is this close to… Read more »

Kendra Morris
Kendra Morris
1 month ago

As one of many neighbors in opposition to this large scale project, let me start by laying out the facts. Despite what the article purports, Ms. Senn has never reached out to any of her neighbors prior to filing for her Provisional Use Permit just as she didn’t reach out to any of her neighbors when she filed the same proposal back in 2017 and just as she didn’t reach out to her neighbors when she went ahead and hosted several weddings on her property anyway without obtaining proper county approval. Neighbors were totally caught off guard when we were… Read more »

Max Walraven
Max Walraven
1 month ago
Reply to  Kendra Morris

Kendra,
This is to you, your husband, and all neighbors: All of your concerns are legitimate and no one wants to see this cause rifts. I trust that the County will do its job and require certain amendments. I think that the extreme smear campaign with numbers like 60,000 vehicles is unnecessary just like the personal attacks on Jocelyn’s character.

Timothy Morris
Timothy Morris
1 month ago

I live near this venue, and this is just an absolute nightmare for those of us in the nearby community. Like many, I came out here to seek out the peaceful tranquillity that this rural, residential area provides. I did my due diligence, thank you, and made sure all of the adjacent zoning near our home was zoned residential, which it is. As is all of her property in question. Ms. Senn constructed a new gravel road which hosts near constant construction traffic, as well as cars going to and from her current rentals, and is less than 50 yards… Read more »

Max Walraven
Max Walraven
1 month ago
Reply to  Timothy Morris

That “posse” you refer to are all local Varina residents, friends of Jocelyn, including who called in. I have zero financial interests here, just a friend that is being railroaded by neighbors that have blown this way out of proportion.

Max Walraven
Max Walraven
1 month ago
Reply to  Timothy Morris

Disdain and contempt? Really?
The three people that I know that were sitting near me, and myself, did not say one word. I’m sure you took note of this…

Cary Cowlbeck
Cary Cowlbeck
1 month ago
Reply to  Timothy Morris

There were plenty of people there interested to listen, learn, ask questions. Some outside in cold, virtual and in room. Max is one of many who supported the right to be heard, unfortunately Mr. Morris, you and your posse made this nearly impossible.

Jeff Walker
Jeff Walker
1 month ago

It’s an issue for the Varina community, but it sure is a beautiful property. I hope the community and Ms. Senn figure out a mutually agreeable solution.

Michael Smith
Michael Smith
1 month ago

Many surrounding neighbors are greatly against this PUP. We have many concerns about traffic, neighborhood safety, environmental impacts, and noise pollution on our peaceful weekends. Many of us didn’t move here to reside next to a venue and those that are for it wouldn’t want to live next to it either. Put yourself in our shoes and think about it. If this was happening 100’ from you every weekend, would you want to build a life, a family, etc?

Cary Cowlbeck
Cary Cowlbeck
1 month ago

To those of you who attended the planning commission meeting regarding Jocelyn Senn’s property and usage as a venue in person and virtually: I am truly appalled by the behavior I witnessed and frankly stunned by the vitriol expressed by many people. This was supposed to be a place to listen to proposals and concerns. To address issues going forward. It was professional briefly, but that eroded quickly. First of all and probably the single most appalling aspect was the character assignation and inaccuracy regarding Ms. Senn. Jocelyn cares deeply about the property, how things are done to preserve and… Read more »

Dan Walker
Dan Walker
1 month ago
Reply to  Cary Cowlbeck

What was obvious to me in that meeting is that Ms. Senn had made mortal enemies of many of her neighbors. One should take that into account when she suggests that she would work with her neighbors to alleviate any concerns.

Lissa Smith
Lissa Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Walker

Cary, his response lends exactly to your point. It’s sad to witness.

Last edited 1 month ago by Lissa Smith
Lissa Smith
Lissa Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Lissa Smith

Through the recent political environment, people have been encouraged and have found it acceptable to attack the person, not the problem. May we all be better persons than that.

Cary Cowlbeck
Cary Cowlbeck
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Walker

Mr. Walker,

I wish I could justify a response “mortal enemies”. Despite the current political climate we are all humans. Check your heart, your soul, your responses and finally your wrist…”everybody has a pulse”.

Kendra Morris
Kendra Morris
1 month ago
Reply to  Cary Cowlbeck

Hi Cary, First of all. Thank you for the thoughtful comment regarding the neighbor’s “brilliant strategy” at the meeting, but I must clarify. There was no strategy deployed at the meeting unlike the strategy clearly evidenced here in this comment section, which has been to deploy a bunch of people who do not even live in the affected neighborhoods and, who, by all intents and purposes, may not even live in Varina at all, and to have them gang up and post mean-spirited and disparaging comments (and in some cases outright mistruths) as part of some smear campaign to discredit… Read more »

Cary Cowlbeck
Cary Cowlbeck
1 month ago
Reply to  Kendra Morris

Hi Kendra, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. First of all, I wish you and your family the best. Thank you for reading my post. You are incorrect in many many statements. You do not have any understanding of the actual proposal which may not be your fault… how could you hear anything? That’s why there was a discussion. I rescue animals and help people in need all the time so “road kill” is awful to me. Nobody wants anything awful to occur…I personally have been concerned about all the accidents on Osborne Turnpike that have zero… Read more »

Mariam Sankoh
Mariam Sankoh
1 month ago

I am not from Varina nor do I have a stake in this conversation although I have been following it to some extent as I am interested in engage in rural business development and I will not be dishonest and say action of community members such as this are dissuading not because of their concerns being invalid; I believe their concerns have merit and should be listened too, but with the viciousness of the personal attacks that seem rather uncalled for and extraneous to the matters of the case (i.e. its not helping anyone). Again I will state I am… Read more »

Cary Cowlbeck
Cary Cowlbeck
1 month ago
Reply to  Mariam Sankoh

Well said.

Scott Pawney
Scott Pawney
1 month ago
Reply to  Mariam Sankoh

The thing is – these people are defending their HOMES. It’s incredibly personal. This one homeowner has decided to wreck all of her neighbors’ personal enjoyment of their rural homes. It is pure selfishness and disregard for her community – she should absolutely be called out for her awful behavior! I say this as someone who doesn’t have a dog in this fight – it’s just clear as a bell who is the bad person in this!

Scott Pawney
Scott Pawney
1 month ago

I totally stand with all the neighbors who oppose this. This will be incredibly disruptive to the neighbors and I bet a bunch will have to move because of it. They bought into a rural area, they should be allowed to keep it that way. That’s what zoning is for.