Highland Board of Zoning Appeals Approves Variance for New Event Space

The Highland County Board of Zoning Appeals met Thursday, November 9.  The Board considered a variance application, and held a public hearing on it, for a property at 32 West Main Street in Monterey.  The property is The Monterey Inn, the applicant is Valentina Meehan and the property owner is VP Global Holdings LLC.  The property is zoned business.  The applicant is planning to build an event barn at the rear west corner of the property.  The barn will be used for events for both Monterey Inn guests and for the community.  The applicant is planning for parking spaces on the property.  She said overflow parking could be in the former Ernie’s Market parking lot across the street, which she also owns.

The application was for a variance on the setback from the side lot line on the west.  The Zoning Ordinance lists a twenty foot setback and the applicant asked for a six foot setback, after originally requesting a one foot setback.

The Board approved the variance application unanimously with a six foot setback on the west side and a twenty foot setback at the rear from Mill Alley.  A condition added to the variance stated that overflow parking will be on the lot of the former Ernie’s Market.

Zoning Administrator Josh Simmons said he agreed the parking plan was sufficient.  Before issuing the building permit, he said parking dimensions will need to be met to be sure all the spaces fit.   He said VDOT had no concerns with traffic pulling onto Mill Alley, if the town had no concerns.  He also said he had no problem with the barn being fifteen feet from the rear lot line at Mill Alley, which was the setback he calculated according to the Zoning Ordinance.  The property owner on the west side submitted a letter of approval for the project.

During the public hearing, there was one speaker and two letters read that were opposed to, or had questions about, the variance.  Concerns included increased traffic, increased noise and visibility problems for traffic on Mill Alley.  There were concerns that when The Highland Inn is completed, there will be even more traffic on Mill Alley, which will affect accessibility, and the Board was urged to impose on the variance a twenty or twenty five foot setback from Mill Alley.

A letter from the Blue Grass Resource Center, owner of The Highland Inn, stated it was not opposed to the project, but felt there needed to be more clarification before approving the variance application.  The letter contained concerns about the proposed parking plan, the project contributing to the amount of traffic on Mill Alley and how traffic spillover may affect The Highland Inn, when it reopens. It also listed concerns about the six foot side setback and called for a rear setback that would allow adequate sight distance on Mill Alley.

Seven people spoke and two letters were read in favor of the variance application.  The Monterey Inn was called a welcome addition to the community and the Board was urged to support business by approving the application.  Sheriff Ronald Wimer commented that in the past there have been a lot more businesses in that area of Monterey, with more traffic.  He said there are businesses that have no off-street parking and this was more of a competition, than a concern, about parking.

Following discussion, and with the approval of the applicant, the originally proposed fifteen foot setback from Mill Alley was changed to a twenty foot setback and was agreed upon.  The added condition, that overflow parking be on the former Ernie’s Market lot, stays with that property and goes with the property if it is sold.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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