“This looked like a horse until we got up close and it looked like a donkey.”

That was Orange County, Va., District 1 Supervisor Mark Johnson’s assessment following a public hearing last Tuesday (July 16) that included more than a dozen citizens speaking out against proposed changes to definitions for camping, campgrounds and RVs in the county zoning ordinance, according to the Orange County Review.

The board unanimously voted down the proposed changes.

In the current ordinance, “camp, campground and RV park” are all uses allowed with a special-use permit. Meanwhile, the current definition of “camp” requires some sort of instructional component, while “campgrounds” must contain a minimum of five acres of land and accommodate paying guests in tents or travel trailers owned by guests.

Three months ago, Albemarle County resident Rusty Speidel approached the county with an idea to create upscale rural lodging (“glamping”) opportunities in Orange County. He pitched the idea of “proximal lodging,” that would allow tourists traveling to the county to stay at the very places they came to visit.

Essentially, he (or another applicant) would partner with a local landowner, business or agritourism operation and enter into a contract for a period of years where an upscale “tiny home” or other such RV would be located on site. It would require water and septic connections, as well as power.

While he didn’t have any specific sites or projects in the works, he first needed definitions in the ordinance to reflect what he is hoping to do. Any proposed camps, campgrounds and RV parks still would require special-use permits.

The proposed changes sailed through the planning commission, which passed it unanimously following a public hearing last month where there were no speakers.

That wasn’t the case last week when the matter came before the board of supervisors.

The board meeting room in the basement of the Gordon Building was nearly filled, with many opposed to the proposed changes.

Of the 16 citizens who signed up to speak, most spoke fervently against the proposed changes. They cited concerns about protecting the county’s rural character, noise, trash, sanitation, traffic, safety and incompatible zoning uses, among other objections.

“If you allow permanent structures with water and septic, television, air conditioning and Wi-Fi on agricultural land, what you have is a hotel or motel. I don’t know what’s camping about that,” said Somerset resident Jim Collins. “Ag is ag and should be kept free of commercial enterprises. Even with a special-use permit, once approved, a precedent is set. At this point, there are no standards set, nor criteria to either approve or deny a special-use permit, no provision for traffic or noise or crowding.”

He called the special-use permit protection “weak.”

Bruce Gupton, of Gordonsville, warned of “unexpected consequences” if the definitions were approved. He said the changes would “be destructive to what we’ve worked hard for.”

“This definition change looks like anything goes,” Rapidan resident Tracy Laughlin added. “The definitions do not provide for criteria or restrictions. The proposed changes are ripe for abuse.”

Rapidan-area farmer Bob Wilbanks reminded the board that the county comprehensive plan charges them to “sustain the rural character of Orange County.”

He suggested the proposed changes would not.

To read more click here.