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Divisive facility near Lake Laura axed amid residents' concerns
By Sally Voth - email@example.com
BASYE -- Following an outcry from nearby landowners, a special-use permit application for an open-air pavilion near Lake Laura has been withdrawn.
The permit was to be discussed during tonight's Shenandoah County Planning Commission meeting, but with the withdrawal, the meeting has been canceled. Planners had deferred a vote on the application in February.
A joint request from Old Dominion Endurance Rides Inc. and Bryce Resort, the proposed 40-by-80-foot pavilion at 1794 Happy Valley Road, in Orkney Springs, would have served equestrians during the annual endurance rides in June, and could have been rented out for resort-approved events, resort General Manager Rob Schwartz said Wednesday.
Some area homeowners opposed the proposal during a public hearing at the Feb. 3 Planning Commission meeting, citing concerns about pollution in the lake and noise. The site is zoned conservation and sits in the Stony Creek floodplain.
Biologist Hays Lantz, who has studied environmental problems in Lake Laura, was one of those who spoke out during the hearing.
"I opposed particularly for environmental reasons," he said Wednesday. "Lake Laura has increasingly gotten worse over the years and [experienced] really just a lot of benign neglect. To build anything in the floodplain could further impact that.
"Also, I live right across from the public boat landing, and noise and drinking and partying and that type of thing is really sometimes a real major nuisance here.
"The majority of landowners here are adamantly opposed to this pavilion."
Lantz said they were afraid having the pavilion -- which would replace a barn torched during a 2009 arson spree -- would lead to more activity from Old Dominion and other groups near the lake.
He said some homeowners were perturbed they hadn't heard of the plans until getting a notice from the Planning Commission a week before the hearing.
"As a result of this, the landowners are forming an association known as Friends of Lake Laura, so if anything like this ever comes up again, we can work as a united front," Lantz said.
Pulling the application was a "tough call," Schwartz said.
"We had said [after the Feb. 3 hearing] that we would meet with various residents and talk about what their concerns were," he said. "We did that. [We were] happy with the way the discussion was going, but frankly, at this point it just wasn't worth considering.
We love the Old Dominion. We think they run a fantastic ride. We will be continuing to work with them for years to come. For now, it's just not worth moving forward with that particular project. We both decided it wasn't the right thing to do at this time."
The resort has a lease to continue hosting the riders for the next 10 years, Schwartz said.