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February 06, 2013
Hearing next week on Historic Belle Grove plantation request
KING GEORGE, Virginia (STPNS) -- Phyllis Cook
The King George Planning Commission will consider a special exception request next week to allow a luxury bed and breakfast inn to be established and to operate at historic Belle Grove Plantation at the existing house built in 1790.
Historic Belle Grove is located on the banks of the Rappahannock River. The existing house is believed to stand on or near the site where James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, was born on March 16, 1751.
A public hearing will be held by the Planning Commission regarding the request on Tuesday, Feb. 12, during a meeting that begins at 7 p.m. in the board room of the Revercomb administration building, located behind the courthouse on Route 3 (Kings Hwy).
Following the hearing and review of the case, the commission will formulate a recommendation on whether to approve or deny the application that will go forward to the Board of Supervisors.
The governing body has final approval of such matters and action will take place by the Board of Supervisors following a second advertised public hearing and complete review of the case.
In addition to a bed and breakfast inn to operated, the applicants, Brett and Michelle Darnell of Darnell Hospitality LLC, of Chesapeake, also want to make the site a venue for catered events on the scenic grounds.
In a letter accompanying their application, the couple says they have arrangements with the owner, Haas Belle Grove, Inc., to lease Belle Grove Plantation with six acres of the total site containing 376.543 acres along the Rappahannock River.
If the special exception request is granted, the couple intends to move to Belle Grove and prepare the house to receive guests offering a total of four suites for overnight guests.
They also want to make it available for outdoor catered events limited to 50 guests. The applicants say their business plan projects from one to three such events per month during fair weather.
The application also requests use of a gravel driveway and parking lot. Section 3.12.5 of the county zoning ordinance allows for graveled parking when it is not used more than two days per week.
Belle Grove is located at 9221 Belle Grove Drive on Tax Map 38 Parcel 19. It is near the southwest corner of the intersection of U.S. 301 (James Madison Parkway) and Route 607 (Port Conway Road), identified as Tax Map 38, Parcel 19. The property is zoned Limited Agricultural (A-1).
Belle Grove was last the subject of public hearings in King George in early 2010 when the owners wanted to allow the bulk of the acreage to be mined for gravel extraction and processing.
That was a very controversial request and was unanimously denied by the Board of Supervisors following a unanimous recommendation for denial from the Planning Commission and from Jack Green, Director of Community Development for the county.
This new request may have public appeal as an appropriate use for the historic house. It is being recommended for approval by staff.
According to the King George Comprehensive Plan, the existing Belle Grove Plantation house was built circa 1790. The house is believed to stand on or near the site where Madison was born on March 16, 1751. Madison is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” among many other accomplishments in our country’s early history.
The house is listed on both the Virginia Historic Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places and is said to be the largest colonial house in the county. The county’s Comprehensive Plan’s cover actually depicts a sketch of the Belle Grove Plantation house, and it cites its importance as a historic resource in Chapter V.
The original owner of Belle Grove Plantation was Francis Conway, who was the grandfather of James Madison and for whom Port Conway was named. It was the childhood home of Madison’s mother, Eleanor Rose “Nellie” Conway. Madison was born while his mother was visiting at her ancestral home.
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