It’s not that the Stonebridge Chase residents oppose having a brewery near them. What they object to is its access off Bull Run Post Office Road and a farm road on their property. The plan is being promoted by Bull Run Winery owner Jon Hickox, and at a July 15 land-use meeting about it, the neighbors made their feelings known.
“I live right next to the road, and we were never told about it [before buying our home],” said Sanjeev Katam. “We have two small kids and we’re worried about their safety.”
“The farm road dissects part of our lot, and it’s a quarter mile from Route 29,” said Ben Jones. “I applaud Jon for his entrepreneurship. What I don’t like is that many of us here are veterans, so we don’t believe we should be flimflammed, bamboozled and led astray.
“Jon, your agent bamboozled us because he told us the road would just be a little path to the winery. We’re not against Jon – I like beer – but we have been misled and we don’t want more traffic on Bull Run Post Office Road.”
Vince Stammetti said most of the gravel road currently going from Bull Run Post Office to the stables is on his property. And, he stressed, “The developer, HOA [homeowners association] and Hickox didn’t disclose it until after I bought my home. The traffic data was done in 2010 and updated on two days, this February, but the busiest time for the winery is May through October.”
Basically, he said, “We question the traffic calculations and wonder how long it’ll take us to get in and out of our development. Why is it OK to build a highway behind my house?”
REPRESENTING Protect the Occoquan Watershed, Hal Moore said Hickox requested a variance to the ordinance regarding the number of events allowed. And he asked Hickox if he’d abide by that ordinance for weekend traffic.
“The county requires us to use shuttles for big events,” replied Hickox. “I don’t feel like there’s a conflict. And because a lot of our business is off-peak, it’s only a 50-person difference.”
Virginia Run’s Greg Mathieson asked if schoolchildren could visit the farm during the week, and Hickox said yes. Jeff Flading, of Fairfax National Estates, asked if winery traffic could go to the brewery. “No,” answered Hickox. “There’s no road between them, and the Manassas National Battlefield Park owns the land there. And VDOT and FCDOT won’t allow that.”
Flading also asked if the winery traffic could someday go out onto Bull Run Post Office Road. But Hickox said no and that he wants to keep the two businesses separate.
“Bull Run Post Office Road already has more traffic than it was designed to handle,” Stonebridge Chase resident and Westfield High student Justin Hill told Hickox. “And you think putting more traffic on it – including people who’ve consumed alcohol – is a good idea. There have been fatal accidents on this dangerous road.”
Agreeing, his mother, Nanette Hill, said, “That road barely handles the traffic it has now. It’s a narrow, two-lane, country road, and it’s got pitches and curves and construction traffic. And if you add people unfamiliar with the road, that’s a recipe for a disaster – and I don’t want it to be my son or a neighbor.”
Jonathan Chan said he and his family just moved into their home a few weeks ago. “Our pamphlets from [builder] NV Homes show that road as a farm road,” he said. “I have a 22-month-old girl and a boy on the way, and I’m concerned about drivers on that road and some drunk driver taking them out.”
Claire Dunleavy, however, said she has a horse on that farm and has driven on Bull Run Post Office for 13 years and has never seen an accident there. “Hickox saved our farm and farmland,” she said. “I asked him if he could put the road elsewhere; but even if it were possible, it would decimate the farmland.”
But Stammetti’s wife, Katie, said, “There’s not even a turn lane, so traffic coming northbound from Loudoun County will back up all the traffic behind it.” However, Hickox reassured her that the county will require a turn lane as the project moves from phase two to phase three.
Directly addressing the residents, he said, “I sold this land to NV, and I can’t control what they told you. I put the language [about the brewery] in the deeds and wasn’t hiding the road from you. It breaks my heart that NV didn’t put an emphasis on this.”
AFTER THE MEETING, several Stonebridge Chase residents wrote to Fairfax County to express their concerns about this project. Among them was Michael Man, who sent a July 25 email to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors – all of whom will be deciding on the Brewery’s future.
In the original special permit for the equestrian center there, one of the conditions the county added prior to approval in 2016 states that the farm road is to only serve the riding and boarding facility and the two dwellings. It would therefore prevent that road from serving anything else. But in the new, special-permit amendment, Hickox wants this condition removed – and in its July 17 report, county staff concurred.
So in his email, Man wrote, “I strongly recommend the BZA reject staff recommendation to remove [the] condition stating that ‘The ultimate access road shown on the special permit plat shall only be used for the riding and boarding stable and the two existing dwellings.’”
“The applicant is trying to push through a special exception that will have an estimated 700+ cars transverse that ‘farm road’ in one hour on Saturday, with an estimated Saturday daily total of 4,663 transits,” he continued. “That is a lot more impactful than the approved equestrian center and goes against the original agreement of the condition of approval.”