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February 23, 2017

Warrenton planners back Culpeper St. B&B proposal

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
John McAuliff seeks approval to operate a four-bedroom inn at his family’s home at 97 Culpeper St.
Culpeper Street is one of Warrenton’s greatest assets. If you don’t use your best assets to market your town, your town simply won’t succeed.
— John McAuliff, applicant
Public Hearing
• Topic: Proposed special permit for four-bedroom bed and breakfast at 97 Culpeper St., Warrenton

• When: Tuesday, Feb. 21.

• Where: Warrenton Community Center, 430 E. Shirley Ave.

• Owner: Trust of Beatrice M. McDonnell.

• Applicant: John McAuliff, grandson of the late Mrs. McDonnell

• Agency: Warrenton Planning Commission.

• Action: By 5 to 2 vote, the planning commission recommended approval of the application.

• Next: The town council, which will take final action on the proposal, could hold a March 9 work session and March 14 public hearing on the project.

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Staff Journalist
Warrenton’s planning commission Tuesday night recommended approval of a proposed bed and breakfast in Old Town.

John McAuliff wants special permit approval from the town council to operate a four-bedroom inn at his family’s home at 97 Culpeper St.

Five planning commissioners backed the project and two — Vice Chairman John Kip and Ali Zarabi — voted against it.

Twelve citizens — six in support and six against the application —spoke during the commission’s Feb. 21 public hearing in the Warrenton Community Center.

Mr. McAuliff and his family believe a bed and breakfast would be an unobtrusive way for them to:

• Generate enough income to keep and preserve the property, which lies within Warrenton’s historic district. The house has been in the family since 1890.

• Provide Old Town its first inn within walking distance of Main Street.

• Help expand Warrenton’s commercial tax base.

Mr. McAuliff during the public hearing spoke about the project’s benefits and addressed his neighbors’ concerns.

“I believe in doing things the right way, not just for me and my family, but for the whole town,” he said.

Town council approval would allow him to build “partnerships with historic organizations, restaurants, wineries and all the businesses in town,” said Mr. McAuliff, who owns a media consulting firm. “It gives folks something to point to that shows we’re an inviting, welcoming place to spend a weekend.”

Chilton House guests also support the local economy by patronizing local businesses, he told the commission.

“Most folks I’ve talked to think a B & B is a no-brainer,” he said.

But, he also knows that critics believe Culpeper Street “just isn’t the right place for” an inn. “Here’s the thing, though. Culpeper Street is one of Warrenton’s greatest assets. If you don’t use your best assets to market your town, your town simply won’t succeed.”

The town needs businesses, such as the proposed bed and breakfast, “that will support one another,” said Lora Gookin, who plans to open a bakery soon at 12 Culpeper St.

“It would be nice to have some place for (visitors) to stay” in Old Town, Ms. Gookin said.

Christina Hitchcock’s parents, who could not attend Tuesday’s public hearing, have lived on Culpeper Street since 1972.

Speaking on their behalf, Ms. Hitchcock suggested that a special permit for the use would be voided, if the McAuliff family sells the house.

The town council cannot require that, because the law provides special permit uses get approved for properties, regardless of who owns them, Town Attorney Whit Robinson said.

Ms. Hitchcock gave the planning commission a petition signed by 12 Culpeper Street residents who oppose the bed and breakfast project.

Opponents also expressed concerns that approval of the Chilton House proposal could pave the way for others who may want to make commercial use of their homes, which could negatively affect property values. 

Mr. McAuliff repeatedly stated that he has no interest in holding public “events” at Chilton House, as he initially proposed.

But, he wants the ability to have small, private gatherings for family and friends at the house.

Because of zoning ordinance confusion about the definition of an “event,” the planning commission recommended a condition that would allow Mr. McAuliff to have such get-togethers, provided no money gets exchanged between the parties and no more than 30 people attend them at one time.

Mr. Kip said he does not object to the use, but voted against the application because of the unresolved “discrepancy” over definition of an “event.”

“I thought it was stupid to vote on it when the rules and regulations aren’t clear,” Mr. Kip said in an interview. “I probably should have abstained.”

The application probably will go to a public hearing before the town council March 14.

Previous stories

B&B and events venue proposed in Old Town

Events dropped from B&B proposal for Old Town

Public notice confusion delays Old Town B&B vote

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TooTrue · March 2, 2017 at 11:21 am
Kipp is right. He should not have voted. He lives in the very small neighborhood directly behind the property that was being considered.
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