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Shenandoah fair seeks more parking space

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Tom Eshelman

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

The Shenandoah County Fair Association wants to spread fairgrounds parking into property the group owns but lies near adjacent homes.

Woodstock zoning officials already denied a request by the fair because the low-density zoning of the 6.4-acre parcel does not allow parking as a use under the town ordinance. The Woodstock Board of Zoning Appeals scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Tuesday to hear the fair association's request to appeal the zoning administrator's decision and allow the organization to use the parcel for parking.

But as the association's general manager Tom Eshelman said Thursday, the organization likely would not need to use the space every night of the annual nine-day event.

"This is just for those big nights," Eshelman said. "During the nine-day fair there are nights that are huge draws and you're talking about putting cars in that field. By the time we would really need to put them in there for a 7:30 [p.m.] show, we're putting them in there at about six o'clock. We're over there at 9:30 [p.m.], or a quarter to 10 [p.m.] and the cars are gone by ten o'clock."

The land sought by the fair lies to the north and northeast of property owned by the association. Land owned by SFC Properties LLC lies to the northwest of the parcel sought by the fair. Residents Dennis Wagner, Dorothy May Gordon and Raymond F. and Judy V. Powell own property to the north of the parcel; and to the east by Devin Barr Lundhurst, Joshua W. or Meredith G. Holloman, Robert J. or Dorothy J. Ferguson, Burgess E. Dellinger, John B. or Erna Horne, and Alma F. Hottle.

The town notified each of the property owners about the public hearing.

The 68 acres owned by the fair association also is zoned residential, but Woodstock grandfathered in the property in the 1970s, said Angela Clem, assistant town planner.

The parcel already sees use as a parking area. Residents parked vehicles on the property to watch the Woodstock fireworks display Wednedsay night, according to Eshelman.

"It's kinda tough to say the previous properties were grandfathered but the current properties aren't and I'm like the powers that be never really allowed for a fair," Eshelman said.

The fair bought the 6.4 acre parcel which once included an apple orchard but now serves as pasture. However, as Eshelman noted, the land is zoned for residential use, the same as the fair.

"The ideal situation would be we would just like that on nights things fill up pretty strong or if there's a really good crowd, it'd be great to put some of that parking in that field," Eshelman said. "So it's basically temporary."

The fair can accommodate the number of vehicles on the current parking area, according to Eshelman. But the fair board saw the extra space as a way to better control parking by spreading the cars out into the field. Also the association wants to improve the fairgrounds by using the flat space freed up by spreading the vehicles to the new area, according to Eshelman. By taking away 80-90 spots from the current parking area and spreading the spaces to the new field, the fair could expand the midway or other amenities, Eshelman said.

"We're asking for temporary use of it," Eshelman said. "I mean events-wise throughout the year obviously there are other events here. There would be very few events that would maintain the fact that we would need to go into that other field."

Should the fair group sell the property in question in the future, a developer could build homes on the parcel given its residential zoning, Eshelman said. Instead of seeing vehicles parked on the property on the occasional day of the fair or during other events, the neighbors would see houses. If the fair can't use the property for overflow parking selling the parcel could be an option should land values increase.

Eshelman said he recently spoke to the neighbors of the property in question and the residents at the time expressed some concern.

"I represent the interest of putting on a good fair and having good events here," Eshelman said.

Eshelman noted the property in question also fronts Henry Drive, with a 300-foot buffer, but the fair has looked at that side as a possible way to direct traffic out of the fairgrounds. The manager acknowledged some neighbors have expressed concerns about fair traffic exiting on to Ox Road and explained that diverting vehicles to Henry Drive may help alleviate those issues. The fair has not asked the town to allow it to send exiting traffic to Henry Drive.

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