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June 29, 2017 · OPINION

“Questions and concerns” about Blackthorne Inn plan

The resort would include a restaurant, guest cottages, an events center and a vineyard on almost 58 acres along John S. Mosby Highway (Route 50), just west of Upperville.
By Kevin Ramundo

I was rather astonished to read the recent opinion piece on FauquierNow: “Promising ‘responsible development’ in Upperville,” written by Dean Porter Andrews to advance Easton Porter Group’s desire to dramatically increase the scale of the Blackthorne Inn. As an Upperville resident who has followed the entire situation very closely, I must say that Mr. Andrews may well be the one misrepresenting the facts, not the individuals who are opposed to his current plan.

All the information that he suggests is being used to misrepresent the plan has been drawn directly from the EPG’s February 2017 application, the 12 pages of county questions and concerns about the application and the official county communication regarding what was approved in 2014.

While the opinion piece is nicely written to paint the rosiest picture possible about the new Blackthorne, the most important point that Mr. Andrews does not address is why there is so much resistance to the plan. It’s not misinformation spread by opponents. It’s because he wants to expand the Blackthorne by a factor of two to three times compared to what the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors approved in 2014, and that poses risks to human health, welfare and safety.

Let’s try to separate fact from fiction. As a community representative who has discussed the project with many residents, large landowners and business leaders, I have to seriously question the assertion that “many business leaders and neighbors support the vision for the project.” I know of four. On the other hand, there are many, many individuals and five different environmental/preservation-oriented groups that are against the expansion plan, including the Piedmont Environmental Council, Goose Greek Association, Citizens for Fauquier County, the Mosby Heritage Area Association and the Loudoun County Preservation and Conservation Coalition.

Let’s talk about density. Mr. Andrews asserts that the developed property would have less than 2 percent density in terms of development. What is not mentioned is that this calculation excludes roads, parking lots and extensive porches, patios and verandas. What is also not mentioned is that the back half of the property, essentially undeveloped now, would house a large two-story event center, 20 cabins, the perimeter road and two maintenance and support buildings. Much of this development would be close to neighboring properties.

Let’s talk about the event center. The op-ed indicates that only two more private events would be held versus what the previous owner could do. Actually, EPG’s most recent numbers indicate 52 “Class C” events annually versus the 30 the previous owner could hold.

Let’s talk about water and economic impact. It is true that those against the plan are suggesting that the application could underestimate water usage. What should have been mentioned is that this observation is based on what county experts reported when they reviewed the application. And, as far as the economic impact analysis EPG included in its application, the county had this to say: “Staff recommends that this analysis be revised and substantiated in order to provide an estimate of the fiscal impact of the proposed project.” Maybe this has happened.

And finally, Mr. Andrews suggests that “the proposed scale and environmental impact for a restored and improved Blackthorne Inn are more than reasonable and within Fauquier County requirements.” This statement must also be seriously questioned. His current plan is two to three times larger than what was previously approved, and the county would have to grant five special zoning exceptions to accept the plan since the Blackthorne is in an area zoned rural/agricultural.

Last but not least, transparency is identified in the op-ed as a core value of the Easton Porter Group. So why not be more transparent and candid regarding the extent of EPG’s plans to expand the Blackthorne Inn and spend less time simply focusing on Mr. Andrews’ grand vision for the proposed expansion? From my experience, few if any in the community support his vision. They prefer a smaller scale restaurant and inn and not a commercial operation.

> High-end resort proposal for Upperville faces hurdles

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martinkus · July 4, 2017 at 1:32 pm
Never trust a developer, no matter how "slick or polished" they appear to be!
BJ · June 30, 2017 at 7:57 am
Observer - what do you mean when you say, "where the more equal citizens live"? I thought it was, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." How are the people north of 29 more equal citizens then the ones south of 29? Do you mean more affluent, therefore have the money to fight development or the system?
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