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Family’s ‘dream project’ clears first hurdle, but neighbors remain uneasy

Family’s ‘dream project’ clears first hurdle, but neighbors remain uneasy

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Crane and Clover

Kim Bergmark-Hill, shown with her brother Kurt Bergmark, left, and father Richard Bergmark, describes the planned Crane and Clover Retreat as a way for her family to be able to finally be together after years of living in separate parts of the country.

When it comes to the plan for her family’s 98-acre parcel of land on Tabscott Rd. in western Goochland, Kimberly Bergmark-Hill’s vision could hardly sound more idyllic: nestled among pines she sees a smattering of small but luxuriously-appointed cabins and yurt-style dwellings, an art studio, a lake-front dining pavilion and a series of winding, well-maintained trails offering a nature-focused retreat space for corporate events and other similar gatherings.

A number of neighboring property owners, however, see a very different picture.

Shortly after Bergmark-Hill shared her plan with Goochland County Planning Commissioners on March 4, in the hopes of securing the group’s support for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), a handful of residents used the public comment period to voice concerns about everything from the plan’s potential impact on groundwater and nearby wells to the increased traffic from those visiting the property.

Because Bergmark-Hill’s land is currently zoned only for agricultural use, any kind of business use requires a CUP approved by the county Board of Supervisors. And although the CUP would require Bergmark-Hill to strictly monitor activities that might negatively impact her neighbors — or risk having the permit revoked — at least 73 of those neighbors have signed a petition urging county leaders to deny the CUP.

“It is not our mission to prevent the family from reaching their dream,” said Goochhland resident resident Marjorie Mayo, who lives near the site of the proposed retreat. “We all want to be good neighbors, but at the same time neighbors have invested in their homes and property because of the peaceful tranquility that is found in this beautiful rural area. And we have many concerns about the impact the proposed CUP will have on the community.”

In addition to concerns about water quality and traffic, Mayo pointed out that many of Bergmark-Hill’s neighbors feel there is simply not enough space on the property for the six cabins and three yurts that would be allowed on the property. And although Bergmark-Hill has consistently presented the planned retreat — set to be called Crane and Clover Retreat — as one that would offer a calming, high-end experience for the maximum 32 guests allowed at one time, Mayo and others say noise pollution, ATV-riding, drunk driving and litter remain high on the list of potential problems they could face should the CUP be approved.

One resident suggested that the expected increase in prescription drugs used by well-heeled visitors could enter threaten the local water-supply.

Bergmark-Hill did have at least one person speak out in support of the plan: Local farm owner Crystal Neilson-Hall pointed out that, as an example of agritourism, Crane and Clover would offer exactly the kind of low-impact economic boost the county needs.

Ultimately, Planning Commissioners appeared to gee with her.

District 2 Commissioner Matt Brewer noted that he had concerns about restricting the rights of property owners to use their land, though he said he did wish the plan had been brought to the county’s attention sooner.

Commission Chairman John Myers said he thought Bergmark-Hill and her representatives had done a “great job” addressing the concerns of surrounding property owners.

Ultimately the Commission voted in favor of the plan, although ultimate approval must come from the Board of Supervisors.

They are expected to take up the matter in May.

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