WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County’s Planning Commission pumped the brakes on a proposed rural resort off Route 42 west of Mount Jackson last week to allow time for more details to be presented and concerns from neighboring property owners to be addressed.
Matthew Johnson has applied for a special-use permit to operate a 20-unit project, named “Sherwood Forest Resort” on 89 acres of property located in the Hudsons Crossroads area. According to Johnson’s presentation during a Thursday joint public hearing with the Planning Commission and the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, the resort would include 10 sites on which geodesic, weatherproof domes — with 24 total bedrooms — would be available for rent year-round.
The resort, if it received county approval, would maintain most of its forested land and would likely feature hiking trails, community park spaces and a splash pad, according to Johnson’s presentation.
Planning Commission members voted 7-0 to table any recommendation to the Board of Supervisors following a public comment period during which neighbors expressed myriad concerns about the proposed project. A couple of commissioners said they need more details about the project before they could make a decision.
Johnson’s presentation included a proposed layout of the resort that included proposed locations for four septic sites, a well and electrical boxes. It also included sample images of what the domes and other accessory structures might look like.
Before voting, Commissioner Mark Dotson (District 1) said he needs to see a more robust plan before taking any action.
Johnson said during the public hearing he wanted to gauge the Planning Commission’s feeling about the resort before partnering with an engineering firm to develop an official preliminary site plan. Dotson encouraged Johnson to develop such a plan that has the “rigor that really gets at specifically what you’re looking to do.”
Commissioner Todd Steiner (District 4) said while he wasn’t opposed to the special-use permit application, “it seems a lot of their neighbors are, and it would be nicer if they could work together and come up with a resolution that satisfies everyone.” Steiner motioned to table a decision on the resort so the applicants and neighbors could “maybe make some arrangements that would be better for everyone.”
Neighbors who spoke or submitted written comments for Thursday’s public hearing shared many of the same concerns, notably those regarding fire safety, the traffic impact along that section of Route 42, septic and the ability to keep visitors within the resort and off adjoining private property.
In an email responding to a list of questions from a neighbor, Johnson wrote that he did not intend to construct a fence around the resort in the interest of preserving the most natural landscape possible, and that maps and signage would be used to “limit any unintentional trespassing” of resort visitors.
Some neighbors also expressed concern about the possible lack of on-site staff during the resort’s operation. Responding to a question asked during a community Q&A, Johnson wrote that a “full-time staff member will not be required” to be on-site during regular business hours and that guests would check in and out using digital lockboxes.
Johnson stated during Thursday’s public hearing that he’s had discussions with someone who lives in the area who is interested in making himself available to visit the resort several times per week to monitor the site and check in on guests.
A couple of neighbors said during the public hearing that they don't oppose the concept, but the proposed location wasn’t suitable.
“There is definitely a good amount of opposition for different reasons,” Commissioner Tommy Miller (District 3) said during the meeting, “from trying to run it from two hours away to now we’re gonna have a potential property manager, to how do we deal with campfires and potential fire issues up that way. I think there’s still a heckuva lot of questions to be answered.”
Commissioners Dotson, Miller, Steiner, Gary Lantz (chairman), Debbie Keller, Eunice Terndrup and Dennis Morris, the Board of Supervisors’ representative on the Planning Commission, attended last week’s meeting.