One month after deferring a decision on a plan by a Richmond Elks Lodge to build a new meeting and events facility in Goochland, county Planning Commissioners voted 4-1 against the proposal during the commission’s monthly meeting on Feb. 4
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge 45, is currently seeking a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) from the county to build a new lodge on a parcel of land located in an industrial zone near the intersection of Pony Farm Road and Oilville Road.
Although several items of concerns had been removed from the plan since it was first brought forth in January—including a shooting range and planned Fourth of July fireworks events—a number of residents insisted during the public comment period that the lodge would bring unwanted noise and traffic to the area, and was inconsistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
Speaking on behalf of the Elks, Brenda Holmes insisted that the organization is not looking to bring a “wild, party atmosphere” to the area, and instead wants only to host a few meetings a month with around 20 people or less. The only events that would likely bring more, she insisted, were the occasional picnic celebration or Flag Day event.
“Social clubs are not bars,” Holmes said, noting that many of the negative headlines people associate with the Elks are instead related to a separate, similarly named organization.
Because the Elks are seeking a CUP for the property on which they wish to build the new lodge, they will need to meet a number of conditions if the request is ultimately granted by the Board of Supervisors.
Among those conditions is a stipulation that fireworks would be prohibited and that outdoor sound would be tightly controlled.
To attorney Darvin Satterwhite, who is representing the Elks in this matter, the claims that the lodge would have a negative impact on the surrounding area do not hold water.
After amending the proposal to remove the shooting range, Satterwhite said, there is little else the Elks could do to decrease the impact of the plan, which Satterwhite said was already far less detrimental to the area than what could be built there with by right.
“I wish we could say we’ll withdraw the traffic but we can’t do that,” Satterwhite said. “It is what it is.”
He noted that the Elks bring a number of benefits to any community in which they operate, and said the new lodge would be “a feather in the county’s cap.”
As they were in January, commissioners appeared hesitant to condemn the plan outright but largly agreed that it was not in keeping with the county’s comprehensive plan.
“”I respect people’s desire for peace and quiet,” said District1 Commissioner John Myers, “however I don’t see how any of the Elks’ activities are going to disturb that peace and quiet. I’m torn.”
“I think we all are,” said District 4 Commissioner Carl Pituck. “I don’t deny that the Elks are good people and they want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem to sit with the local citizens right now.”
Ultimately, the Commission voted 4-1 against the recommendation of the CUP, with Myers casting the sole vote in favor of it.
The next step for the Elks will be to appear before the Board of Supervisors, who will make the final determination.