Shenandoah County’s Planning Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday night to support a special-use permit request for a rural resort in Basye.

The resort, which would be developed by NARH Retreats under the name Shenandoah Resort LLC, would include 50 overnight stay rental units, a restaurant, fitness and wellness center and other related accessory structures on property located along Alum Springs Road.

Ahmed Helmi, CEO of NARH Retreats, told county commissioners and supervisors during a joint public hearing that his company had scoured potential sites across the region and found that the area in southwestern Shenandoah County offered “amazing natural attractions (and) man-made attractions that we think would fit our concepts.”

Helmi said the resort, meant to be a retreat that is in “harmony with nature and minimizes impact on the natural environment,” would consist of cabins open year-round and tents open from April to November, as well as a small farm-to-table restaurant available for resort guests and others who wish to dine there.

Helmi noted the site’s close proximity to Bryce Resort, Lake Laura, the George Washington National Forest and the Orkney Springs Trail and the location of the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival as major draws.

“The idea is to encourage our guests to be visiting other attractions,” said Helmi, who stated the resort would target guests from Washington D.C. and other surrounding metropolitan areas. “It’s the idea of partnering with local businesses to create diverse experiences for our guests.”

Helmi said the resort’s construction would cost approximately $8 million and that NARH intended to contract local firms for the planning, engineering and construction of the project. The resort would create 30 full- and part-time jobs, Helmi added, and NARH would seek ways to work with local schools, including colleges and universities with hospitality and tourism programs.

NARH Retreats’ proposed project received support from neighboring residents – including those from the Redtail Hawk Court Homeowners Association and Bird Haven Farm – who spoke or had written comments read aloud during Wednesday’s public hearing and lauded the company’s willingness to open frequent and productive dialogue with nearby homeowners.

Through those discussions with neighbors, NARH developed a list of voluntary conditions for the project that include 60-foot buffers around the entire property and address things like forest conservation and fire safety, hunting preservation and safety, noise and light mitigation, guest conduct and waste management, Helmi said.

Shenandoah County Planning Commission Chairman Gary Lantz praised NARH’s work on the proposed project to this point.

“You guys have certainly done your homework and this is probably one of the few times I’ve seen cooperation that you’ve achieved from your neighbors and everybody involved,” Lantz said. “I think you’ve got a well-organized plan and I want to commend you on that, because a lot of people do not have the same foresight to protect the most beautiful place in the world, the Shenandoah Valley, and I hope we can all work together to preserve that and you still have what you want.”

The Planning Commission’s vote of support came with several stipulations, including that the voluntary conditions NARH Retreats has proposed be met and that additional fire safety steps are taken and an emergency response plan for guests and employees is developed prior to operation.

Though commissioners voted 6-0 to recommend approval of the special-use permit (a vote by the Board of Supervisors is still required), District 3 Supervisor Brad Pollack expressed concern about what impact the additional traffic generated by such a resort would have on nearby Orkney Grade. At least a few Planning Commission members, including fellow Supervisor Dennis Morris, agreed that such an impact was something to be explored.

Also on Wednesday, commissioners voted unanimously to approve the site plan for a large-scale solar facility in Mount Jackson being developed by EDF Renewables Inc. and operating under the name Randolf Solar Partners LLC.

The site, for which a special-use permit was approved last October, lies on property at 332 Walker Road and 595 Georgetown Road and is accessed by the latter roadway. When complete, the facility, which will tie into an adjacent Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative substation, will generate enough electricity to power approximately 570 homes, according to Chris Gordon of EDF Renewables.

A representative of EDF Renewables stated on Wednesday that the company is “moving quickly on the project” and hopes to have the facility in operation by the end of the year.

In additional action on Wednesday, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend for approval a special-use permit for a home equine therapy business at 495 Long Lane Drive in Mount Jackson and a special-use permit to allow a barn to be constructed in the Shenandoah River floodplain on property located at 448 Whitehall Lane in Mount Jackson.

Contact Brad Fauber at bfauber@nvdaily.com