WOODSTOCK – County supervisors have approved a bed and breakfast in the Mount Jackson agricultural and forestal district for more intensive use, opening the door for a special use permit application.
Both county and state zoning rules and regulations played into last week’s decision as the applicants, Mark and Donna Mashburn, asked the supervisors to approve increased usage on their property should they open a bed and breakfast.
County codes protect nearly 15,000 acres throughout the Mount Jackson agricultural and forestal district. Those protections allow landowners to assess their property at agriculture or forestal land values as well as preventing local governments from enacting local laws that would prohibit the use of land for agricultural uses.
Along with those protections come some restrictions, including limited uses outside of strict agricultural practices — prompting the Mashburns’ need to request approval for more intensive use.
“It’s in the middle of a farm, and it’s surrounded by farms,” Mark Mashburn told the supervisors. “We’re not talking about a 100-room [bed and breakfast] or any effort to expand or anything like that. I think people would be missing out on a lovely experience not being able to stay in a historic home that’s been restored and be surrounded by farmland.”
County supervisors Rich Walker, District 3, and Karl Roulston, District 4, expressed support for the specific project but were wary of opening up land use within the agricultural and forestal district.
“I think that is supposed to be very restrictive,” Walker said. “I think it will be problematic from our standpoint to approve a bed and breakfast. I think it creates a precedent... and I think that might change the nature of the ag[ricultural] and forestal district.”
Roulston agreed that opening up the use could pose problems down the road for the supervisors. Roulston said he was supportive of this project in particular, but would likely vote against future projects in similar situations.
Mark Mashburn asked if a winery would require a similar process as his bed and breakfast.
Jason Ham, the county attorney, said state code allows for a winery or similar agritourism project to go on protected land.
Ham also told supervisors the ordinance allows them to pick and choose which projects they want to approve without being concerned about precedent.
“Your ordinance absolutely does enable you to allow a more intensive use. It doesn’t limit,” Ham said. “Legally if you let them do this, two weeks later his neighbor comes along, he wants a bed and breakfast too, there’s no recourse. The board can deny that if it wants to.”
Steven Baker, District 2 supervisor, said projects like the bed and breakfast are important for the future of agriculture.
Baker is also a member of the Agricultural and Forestal Review Committee, which heard the Mashburns’ case last month.
According to Baker, this project is an agritourism project as much as a winery would be.
“Agriculture has challenges,” Baker said. “If we bring people out, we want to promote tourism. This is ag-tourism.”