Mathews planners cast tie vote on event venue application

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on May 16, 2018 - 03:22 PM

The Mathews County Planning Commission cast a tie vote Tuesday on an application for a conditional use permit for an event venue in the Glebe, leaving the commission without a recommendation for the Mathews County Board of Supervisors. The vote followed a joint public hearing of the two county boards.

Harvey and Sherri Hamm of Gloucester had requested the permit for a second time to establish an event venue for weddings and other large gatherings of up to 200 people on 18.14 acres in a residential neighborhood in the Glebe.

They made the same request last June, but were denied the permit in August after neighbors expressed concerns about such issues as noise, the closeness of the facility to neighbors, and a narrow driveway that could hinder emergency vehicles from gaining access to the site.

This time, the Hamms tried to address their neighbors’ concerns by promising to comply with more stringent requirements, such as widening their lane to 20 feet to accommodate two-way traffic, limiting the number of events to 18 per year, and planting vegetative screening along the southern tree line to screen the site from neighbors.

Those requirements would be in addition to requirements set last year, which included ending events by 10 p.m., limiting any event to no more than 200 guests, designing lighting so as not to extend beyond the property line, providing off-street parking, and complying with VDOT entrance requirements and health department food preparation, water, and sanitation requirements. In addition, the CUP would be limited only to the applicants and couldn’t be transferred to a purchaser.

Hamm told supervisors and planning commission members that he had talked with people in the neighborhood and had found that about half were for his proposal and half against it. He said he had developed an emergency action plan for the venue based on a list from the state fire marshal, and that he and his wife are “early-to-bed and early-to-rise” people who would be considerate of their neighbors.

Four people expressed support for the application, five people spoke against it, and one person made comments neither for nor against.

Tracy Foster of Hallieford Road said she admired and respected the Hamms, and suggested that a trial period “would allow all to have a win.” A real estate agent who has done work for the Hamms, Foster said the property was in disrepair when they purchased it, and they had beautified it. She described the couple as honorable, honest and hard-working.

Tina Estes of Greenwood Road in the Glebe said that the Hamms had been wonderful neighbors to her, helping her with issues on her property, taking her firewood, and even dropping by with food when she was sick. She said an event venue would cause her no more stress than “hunting dogs barking or hunt club members throwing beer cans out on the road.”

Mike Walls of Hudgins pointed out that the planning commission had approved another event venue last year, and that the only difference with the Hamms was that they had prominent neighbors who had complained. James White of Anchorage Way said the venue would increase the tourist base and bring in tax revenues that don’t burden residents.

Ben Haywood of Long Road said that he wasn’t disputing Hamm’s character, but that he had “just picked the wrong place, right in the middle of a neighborhood.”

John Caramia of Baby Lane said he was still concerned about traffic issues, emergency services, and noise associated with the proposed venue. He said he could hear sounds from another event venue, Grandview Manor, which is “up the river,” and that the county doesn’t need another such venue, but instead needs lodging.

Ann Marchant Jones of Marchant Lane said that the Hamms’ property is her ancestral home, that her ancestors are buried there, and that she lives next door. When Grandview Manor, which is located across East River, holds an event, she said, “I can literally hear it inside my house.” She said she could imagine people trespassing on her property if the venue were approved.

Danny Hunley of Mathews said that, although he is the closest neighbor to the proposed event venue, Hamm had not reached out to him. While the Hamms’ property has 18 acres, he said, it’s only 200 yards wide, and neighbors line both sides of it.

“I can hardly imagine a place to pick that would be worse,” he said. “What’s at issue is planting a for-profit, commercial enterprise right in the dead center of a long-established neighborhood.”