Faced with opposition from neighbors and a lack of support from county staff, a proposal for what would have been the first bed-and-breakfast and events venue in Varina has been withdrawn.
A permit request for property owner Jocelyn Senn’s proposed Virginia Inn B&B and venue was pulled just before it was slated to go before the Henrico County Planning Commission on Thursday.
The request, which had been deferred twice since November, was scheduled to be heard this month and had remained on the commission’s agenda as recently as last week. This month’s meeting, originally scheduled Feb. 11, was rescheduled twice due to the recent ice storms.
Since it was last deferred in December, Senn had submitted a revised proposal that cut the number of weddings and other events to be allowed in half, from 60 to 30 per year. It also halved the number of venue sites on the riverfront property off Osborne Turnpike to three — one outdoor and two indoor — and reduced the number of attendees by 50 people for the outdoor site.
Senn also submitted a traffic circulation plan and indicated that event speakers would be directed toward the river.
But county planners, who had previously called the proposal “a unique opportunity” that could help promote tourism if noise and traffic impacts could be adequately addressed, determined that the revised proposal would still negatively impact neighboring residents and recommended denial.
The proposal had drawn considerable pushback from Senn’s neighbors and other nearby residents, some of whom coordinated an opposition campaign called “Don’t Venue Varina,” complete with a website and yard signs that dotted Osborne Turnpike and other area roads.
By Thursday, none of the signs were visible along Osborne, and the website had been depleted of its content, save for a landing page with the “Don’t Venue Varina” logo below the words “Coming Soon.” Senn’s Virginia Inn website also was devoid of much of its previous content, save for a support letter and some other documents.
Attempts to reach Senn were unsuccessful Thursday.
Senn planned to use her riverside home and adjacent properties she’d acquired for the proposal, which centered on a farmhouse that she recently renovated at 1520 Rustling Cedar Lane. The combined property, at 9128 Osborne Turnpike, is just south of Battery Hill Drive and about a mile north of the Osborne boat landing and Kingsland Marina.
The B&B would have been the first of its kind in Varina and only the third in Henrico, according to the county. A staff report said a B&B with no accessory events had been approved along Osborne Turnpike in 2006 but never began operating.
In a community meeting in November, many of Senn’s immediate neighbors and other area residents spoke in opposition to the proposal. Several cited 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 proceeded.
Tyrone Nelson, who represents the Varina District on the Henrico County Board of Supervisors, said the opposition was at a level he had not previously seen.
“In my nine-plus years of being on the Board of Supervisors, I’ve never been involved in a case in my district that had that much community opposition,” Nelson said. “Clearly the community was saying it’s something that wasn’t desired.”
“I think the entertainment venue was part of the main concern for the community,” he said. “Maybe if it had just come in as a bed-and-breakfast, it might have been different. But it didn’t come in that form.”
While it’s unclear whether the proposal would be pursued again someday, Nelson said, “I would suspect that if it ever comes back, it’ll come back in a different form. There was just a lot of opposition.”
Glenwood Golf Course proposal deferred
In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the commission deferred consideration of Godsey Properties’ plan to develop Glenwood Golf Course as two subdivisions totaling 320 homes. The commission will consider rezoning and permit requests for the project at its March 11 meeting.
Since the case was put on the commission’s agenda this month, Godsey principal Doug Godsey said the county had requested more information and seemed more receptive to the proposal than an initial staff report conveyed. Planners had said it does not fit what the county’s comprehensive plan envisions for the site, which is designated for a mix of residential, commercial, office and recreational uses.
Godsey said his proposal is more in line with adjacent residential neighborhoods and described the comprehensive plan designation as outdated. He was optimistic about his proposal’s chances, describing it as “a subdivision like the East End hasn’t seen.”
“We’re doing something out there that nobody else has done,” said Godsey, who grew up in the area. “There’s a huge need for housing in the East End.”
While Godsey’s requests would allow zero-lot-line houses, meaning homes that are located at or near a property line, Godsey said the homes would not be positioned that way and that the zoning is only sought to allow for certain building frontages and widths.
“The zoning that we’re asking for allows the zero-lot-line, but we’re not doing any zero-lot-line,” Godsey said. “We’re trying to get as many lots as we can, obviously, because of the type of amenities that we’re including in this.”
Godsey said the plan also would involve a $2 million widening of Creighton Road along the east side of the property, including sidewalks and curb-and-gutter improvements.
Local attorney Andy Condlin with Roth Jackson Gibbons Condlin is representing Godsey in the case.