What started as a dream for Shawneeland residents Alicia and Patrick Smith has turned into a nightmare.
The couple purchased a 100-acre property with the hopes of using the space to not only build their ideal home, but to open campgrounds with three-sided shelters called bunkhouses, and bed-and-breakfast style guestrooms.
Alicia Smith teaches essentrics and says she wanted to be able to teach classes on the property. Plus, the couple loves the outdoors and with the Tuscarora Trail cutting through the property, campgrounds seemed like a good fit.
According to the couple, county planners suggested the bed-and-breakfast approach with event spaces would be their best option moving forward.
The “best option” soon became anything but.
The couple submitted an application for a conditional use permit to build the facilities on their property, along with bathroom facilities. According to the permit, the couple requested permission to build a maximum of five bed-and-breakfast guestrooms, 30 tent-only campsites with “required supporting infrastructing including bathrooms”, ten partially enclosed bunkhouses, and “supporting infrastructure such as separate commercial kitch to serve campground guests.”
However, other residents of the Shawneeland Sanitary District weren’t thrilled by the idea of more people being on the mountain.
“The permit got released to the public via the newspaper and our letter we sent out,” Patrick Smith said. “It was pretty hostile, the reaction.”
On Monday night, the Shawneeland Sanitary District Advisory Committee voted unanimously to send a letter to the Frederick County Planning Commission, expressing their opposition to the plan. The Committee, made up of five community members, includes Jimmy Smith, who has no relation to the couple.
When reached by email, Jimmy Smith wrote that he had actually met with the couple and communicated his concerns regarding the permit, including the words “commercial kitchen.”
“Words like ‘commercial’ and ‘campground’,” Jimmy Smith wrote. “People get a different visual of those words.”
He added that during the conversation Patrick Smith was “very willing to make the changes.”
Other residents of the community circulated an online petition, with comments like this one from user Angela Perriello: “This is way too much for this mountain top to handle. The roads won’t be able to handle the traffic nor equipment to prepare and build.”
Another petition-signer identified as Marty Feltner wrote, “Not in favor of allowing this property to be built as proposed in the permit. Much discussion needs to occur prior to approval from the County. If this was for private family and friends there is no need for application of campsites, bunkhouses, or shower houses. Build it but with your own private road outside of Shawneeland borders.”
Many of the comments echoed concerns of increased traffic and wear and tear on the roads, which as Jimmy Smith explained, are managed and paid for by the Shawneeland residents, not the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“Everyone has the right to use [their] land. As long as others don’t have to [bear] a burden caused by others misuse,” Jimmy Smith wrote. “The citizens are concerned because we as residents pay a sanitary fee. Which, this money funds the budget for Shawneeland, which takes care of all the needs of Shawneeland. Including roads all through the year, which causes alarm of the roads being overworked.”
However, according to a letter from Kevin Alderman, the manager of the Shawneeland Sanitary District, cited in the permit request, traffic flow would not be seriously impacted.
“My biggest concern is the additional traffic that this facility may generate once it opens for business,” Alderman wrote in an email to Tyler Klein, a Senior Planner with the County’s Department of Planning & Development on March 12, 2019. “Winter months bring a huge challenge to vehicles trying to access the top of the Mountain. Wolf Springs is the only trail to access the top. My staff is very diligent in keeping this trail open for all traffic but especially emergency vehicles. The additional traffic could create additional hazards. But after speaking with you this morning, I understand the traffic impact will be minimal. So from my stand point, there are no concerns at this point with the additional traffic.”
Although the advisory committee will be sending a letter to the planning commission, the commission may still approve the permit, passing the decision along to the Frederick County Board of Supervisors.
But the couple isn’t sure their dream is worth staying in Shawneeland..
“The reaction we’ve gotten from our neighbors and the some of the aggressive confrontational type things,” Patrick Smith said. “We honestly don’t want that to happen to any of our friends or family so we’re thinking maybe we’ll go somewhere else and fulfill our dreams somewhere else.”
The Frederick County Planning Commission is set to address the couple’s conditional use permit on June 5.