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February 20, 2020 · OPINION

“The simple truth” about the Barrel Oak proposal

Photo/Google Earth
By Kevin Ramundo

As co-founder of the Fauquier Countryside Preservation Group formed to oppose the “Sanctuary at Barrel Oak,” I have been closely involved in this project from the beginning.

I was there last June along with 90 others when the applicant, Brian Roeder, held a meeting and asked the audience to raise their hands if they were opposed to the project. About 90 percent, many of whom lived close to the proposed project, were opposed to his application for a 42-room hotel, restaurant and major event center right next to his Barrel Oak winery business in an area zoned rural/agricultural.

The rationale for this project has changed three times since that June meeting. Originally, it was that Fauquier needed overnight accommodations in the north of the county, hence the original “Lodge at Barrel Oak” application.

Then the emphasis shifted when the applicant added resort facilities and rebranded the project as the “Sanctuary at Barrel Oak.”

And most recently, the rationale shifted again in the form of a highly questionable 18-page document asserting that the county’s comprehensive plan is all wrong; it is leading to a decline in agricultural preservation and agritourism, and that his “sanctuary” project is just what we need to help turn things around.

For the record, Fauquier County is doing just fine in these areas and in balancing growth and preservation overall.

The rationale is not the only thing has changed. On two occasions, the applicant postponed his plans with short notice to come before the board of supervisors, and may have postponed at least one planning commission meeting. While this is the applicant’s prerogative, these changes place an unnecessary administrative burden on the county over and above the tremendous amount of time and effort spent reviewing the applicant’s sparse application, which failed to answer many legitimate questions about the project. Applicants for special exceptions need to hold themselves to a higher standard, and should recognize that the time of county staff and officials is a scarce resource that all of us pay for and that needs to be respected.

In a recent post on the Fauquier Now, Mr. Roeder stated: “As long as you (referring to me) and your crowd run the county, farmers will leave the land, big houses will be built on big lots, tax rates will increase, income inequality will increase …”

This is a ridiculous continuation of what Mr. Roeder would like everyone to believe, which is that he is a victim of a coordinated opposition effort including the county, environmental organizations, community groups and the media. Let me be perfectly clear. The opposition is not personal and never has been an “us versus him” situation, except in Mr. Roeder’s mind.

I completely respect Mr. Roeder’s right to apply for special exceptions, to modify his application and to try to maximize the value of his business and real estate holdings which he has tried to sell in recent years.

The simple truth is that the sanctuary project flies in the face of the county’s comprehensive and rural lands plans, which are designed to protect the best interests of the county and its citizens — not to advance the interests of any individual, regardless of the rationale offered.
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farmbum · February 22, 2020 at 9:56 am
North, 15 vineyards...
South, 1000 homes.
Rickey · February 21, 2020 at 4:18 pm
Plenty of growth in the north. 15 or more new vineyards in past 5 years, tons of trash on the roads, drunk tourists on narrow country roads and large groups of cyclists on weekends blocking the roads. And most of us work hard, make the long commute and PAY TAXES.
Jim Griffin · February 21, 2020 at 8:57 am
Individual rights, property rights, free enterprise, free markets vs. govt claims it has in mind "the best interests of the county and its citizens."

Which do you favor?

If you prefer the latter, Arlington is attractive; If you prefer the former, you likely thought Fauquier a better choice. Surprise!

If you're the Marriott Corp., you can develop your "sanctuary" wherever you like, rural lands plans or not. Fancy a "fully catered picnic for 2,000 people" at a "corporate function"?

"The motion passed unanimously."

Silii · February 21, 2020 at 8:42 am
The simple truth is that many 'rural' landowners, especially those with 'smaller' parcels of 10-20 acres north of Warrenton are cheating on their taxes and want to keep it that way. The way to do that is to make every effort to keep their properties from being properly assessed, keep those assessors away. Every 4 years the county's contracted property assessors go door to door in Warrenton and other high density areas, examining properties in person, taking pictures, nosing around, declaring them far more valuable than they really are. The appeals process to unreasonably high assessments, albeit spelled out in state law, is rigged. The first is appeal is conducted by assessors themselves. The 2nd level is done by the BOE consisting of a plurality of real estate agents and others connected to the real estate business. Rarely does the homeowner win their appeal. Gotta keep those false values high - it's good for business. But, these same assessors don't show up in person on 'rural' properties further outside Warrenton especially towards the north. So, lots of cheating is going on - outbuildings on properties not being declared as fully equipped tenant units, cheating on land use declarations because nobody is really looking. There are several groups in Fauquier County protecting their 'rural' land from honest and valid assessments. So, onward Mr. Roeder. At least he's honest about what he wants to do with his property and it will generate tax revenue that the landed gentry are avoiding. By the way, where were these groups when the hundreds of town house units were approved in Marshall where the county has historically struggled to provide potable and sufficient amounts of water? Oh, that's right. High density. Property taxes.
farmbum · February 21, 2020 at 6:36 am
For simple truth, look no further than Southern Fauquier county. You know, the part of the county with the infrastructure projects that benefit other surrounding counties. The Dominion "upgrades" for transmission towers, the NG pipeline now under construction. What happened to our "rural land plans"?
Yes, I side with any landowner trying to make a betterment that benefits filling Fauquier tax coffers.
The Barrel Oak projects smell and look of NIMBY. No opinion needed.
local · February 20, 2020 at 10:44 pm
Completely agree, Sonny. Those in the northern region of the county have been abusing the conversation easements granted by the county, which places the burden on citizens for higher taxes across the board, or more development in southern parts of the county. Airlie should be a case study for this endeavor, as is magnitudes larger, and welcomed in the community.
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