Enders Parking Lot Approved, Darbybrook Meets Resistance

It was a busy evening of hearings and discussions Tuesday night as the Berryville Town Council convened to address a full agenda for August. During the hour and a half long meeting, two particular matters garnered significant attention from the council: Enders site plan, and Darbybrook’s attempt to dissolve its Home Owners Association.

The meeting began with a public hearing on the site plan for John H. Enders Fire and Rescue Company. The effort has progressed through the school board, the planning commission and finally came to rest before the town council last night. Council members heard from two speakers on the issue, both of whom were residents of Swan Street which is adjacent to the proposed project. Both were adamant in their support of the fire company and did not express objections to the lot but were seeking to have better buffers put in place to protect their street from the view and lights that the new parking area may bring. Swan Street resident Frank Lee said he had spoken with other residents on Swan Street and stated before the council that, “We have no major objections, but we would like to see some plantings if at all possible on the south side of the lot.”

The council received a recommendation from the town planning commission to approve the site plan as submitted with the only condition being that a written maintenance agreement be in place between the school and Enders for the storm water bio-retention area of project. While there was mention of additional landscape screening at the planning commission meeting, that body decided that they would not attach the screening as a condition. The council reviewed the plans and found them to be in compliance with zoning laws. Assistant Town Manager, Christy Dunkle clarified for the council pointing out that, “The ordinance says there is no requirement for a buffer.”

Councilman Allen Kitselman acknowledged the town had no authority to compel Enders to add additional screening to the project, but did ask the Enders representatives if they would like to respond to the issues brought up during the public hearing.   Chris Shipe, President of John H. Enders Fire and Rescue Company addressed the council and said, “We would prefer to go with the plan as it is.” He added that he had walked the proposed lot and felt that it would not have a significant impact on Swan Street. In closing he stated, “We work very hard and are very good stewards of our resources and we prefer to put our resources into firefighting equipment rather than extra plantings at this time.”

A motion was made by Councilman Mary Daniel to approve, but was amended to include a requirement that the “in-progress” maintenance agreement be completed. The motion was seconded by Councilman Larry Russell. The vote was unanimous to approve with Town Recorder Jay Arnold abstaining from the vote.

Enders must now get the final approval from the Clarke County School Board. However, at the Monday School Board meeting the board indicated that if the town approved the lot they would also approve it.

Turning their attention to the Darbybrook proposal the council was less than enthusiastic.

The council was tasked with a review of a draft agreement to take over the common property held by the subdivision’s Home Owners Association (HOA). The ongoing battle for Darbybrook to dissolve their HOA met direct resistance at the August Town Council session as council members across the board expressed their deep reservations with the draft proposal submitted to them. At issue is the fundamental reasoning behind the request for the town to take on the burden of maintaining the common property held by the HOA.

Mayor Kirby opened discussions with a suggestion for the Town Manger to forward the draft to the town’s attorney, but continued on saying, “I have been thinking long and hard about the reason why the HOA wants to give up the ownership and maintenance of these areas and I find the only reason for doing this is to alleviate the expense of the maintenance.” He added, “I find it hard to see the truth and the good for us to take over the responsibility of maintaining something that the owners were charged to take care of in the first place. It’s like they don’t want the responsibility and they want to pass it on the citizens of our town.”

Town recorder Jay Arnold pointed out that there was really no point in sending the agreement to the town attorney for review if the council was not really comfortable with the agreement.

Other council members expressed their reservations with the draft agreement as well.

Councilman Mary Daniel said, “I’ve gotten more feedback about this and have heard more from citizens on this than I did about the sewer rate increase and I have received consistent negative comments.” She expressed reservation about the document saying, “I’m not convinced that it is a good deal all around and I suspect it is a bad deal all around, both for those inside and outside of the subdivision.”

After discussing the matter, Mayor Kirby proposed a motion to have the Town Manger draft a letter to the HOA outlining their concerns and seeking additional information for review.

The mayor said, “There is some additional information, I think that is necessary to convince me that what they are asking us to do is the right thing and that is the directors of the HOA have voted to dissolve the association, but where do the members stand on the issue.”

In the end the council passed the motion and directed the Town Manager to draft the letter to the HOA.