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Washington County planners reject retreat center

by Tom Sissom | January 14, 2022 at 7:01 a.m.
File photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/STACY RYBURN The Washington County Courthouse is seen July 27 in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County planners on Thursday rejected a conditional use permit for a retreat center and events venue on Vaughn Road east of Springdale after area residents complained about noise and traffic the business would bring to their neighborhood.

The Washington County Planning Board split 2-3 on a motion to approve the permit, with board members Neil Helm and Loren Shackelford voting in favor and Joel Kelsey, Phillip Humbard and Lisa Miller voting against it. County attorney Brian Lester said the property owner can appeal the decision on the permit to the Quorum Court.

The board had tabled the request for a conditional use permit for the Nazareth Retreat Center in December with several board members saying they wanted more information on the proposed business operation.

The conditional use permit was sought for property at 18316 Vaughn Road in northeastern Washington County. According to information from the planning staff, the three parcels of property comprise 45.93 acres of land that is about a half-mile south of U.S. 412 and also about a half-mile west of Beaver Lake.

The retreat center is planned to be built in stages, according to information provided to the county's Planning Department. The first stage, to be built immediately upon approval by the county, is to include a 13,112-square-foot retreat center with an outdoor pavilion, an office building, a splash park and pool. The second stage, planned to be built in 2023, would include a 14,880-square-foot boat storage complex, and the third stage, planned for 2024, would include a zipline facility. The land is currently vacant, according to planning staff.

According to information from Blew & Associates, engineers for the project, water for the facility will be provided by connecting to an existing 8-inch Springdale water line that crosses the property. A decentralized septic system is planned for the site, and electricity will be provided by Ozarks Electric Cooperative Corp.

The engineering firm provided information to the county indicating the facility would generate about 117 total trips, entering and exiting, over a 24-hour weekend of operation. Information from the proposal indicates the facility would be used for retreats, group meetings, training workshops, conferences, family reunions, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and other celebrations as well as camping trips. The facility would have an open pavilion for summer events and be adaptable to a closed pavilion with a natural chimney for winter events, according to information provided to the county.

Several neighbors spoke against the permit, saying the facility is not compatible with the rural, agricultural and single-family properties in the area.

Also on Thursday, the board denied a request for a conditional use permit for an events venue on 3.3 acres of land at 12498 Shetland Road near Farmington. The board rejected the request for the Martin Barn events center after a hearing in which area residents said they opposed a commercial use in their residential neighborhood. The neighbors complained about noise and traffic from events the property owners have already held at the site.

The board voted 3-2 against the request for a permit. The property owner can appeal that decision to the Quorum Court.

County zoning

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Land in unincorporated Washington County is zoned for agricultural or single-family residential use. All other uses require the property owner to obtain a conditional use permit through the county’s planning process. The permits must be approved by the Washington County Planning Board and the Quorum Court.

Source: Staff report

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