Following opposition from residents, the Pittsylvania County Planning Commission voted to recommend a zoning change for a proposed ancient Rome themed luxury RV park off U.S. 58.
The project would complement the Caesars Virginia casino and hotel being built at the former Dan River Inc. site in Schoolfield.
The 5-3 vote Tuesday night recommended that the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors rezone about 90 acres at Vandola Church Road in the Westover District from R-1 residential suburban subdivision to A-1 agricultural.
At least a dozen residents, most of them from the Vandola Church Road area, spoke out against the idea during the commission’s meeting in Chatham. They expressed worry about possible increase in traffic, compromised public safety, noise and reduction in property values.
“I’m concerned about the large vehicles being on the small road [Vandola Church Road], narrow road running through in a quiet neighborhood,” said Vandola Church Road resident James Howerton.
Florida-based J. Cubas Holdings, LLC, requested the rezoning and plans to apply for a special-use permit to operate a 454-unit, high-end campground.
“The Palace Resort is being designed as a high-end, luxury RV resort with an ancient Roman theme to compliment [sic] the new Caesars [Virginia] Hotel & Casino under construction just five minutes away,” according to information provided by the company to the county.
The company also mentions Martinsville Speedway and dining and shopping options as other amenities in the area.
The property for the project includes five parcels totaling 106 acres. Two are zoned commercial, located along Riverside Drive, and lie within Danville. The remaining three parcels are in Pittsylvania County.
“Our goal is to be able to get traffic into Caesars, into the downtown area and into shops,” said Joe Cubas, the company’s manager.
The resort would include 454 RV sites, with 51 being “casitas,” or premium units, featuring a lake and amenities including Roman-style pools and spas, a restaurant, bar and grill, clubhouse with entertainment rooms, gym, tennis and pickleball courts and other features.
Cubas pointed out that the project is calling for just five units per acre. That’s 25% of what the county zoning code allows, he said.
There will be security at the campground 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Cubas said. RV parks are “transient in nature” and the Palace Resort would be operated similar to a hotel, he said.
Commission member Colette Henderson asked Cubas during his presentation on the project what the price range would be for units at the park.
“We’re debating that as we speak,” Cubas said.
He estimated units could range from $70 to $110 per night, with prices $120 and beyond for luxury sites.
As for traffic concerns on Vandola Church Road, Cubas pointed out that the entrance to the park would be from Riverside Drive. Also, guests staying at the resort would likely stay at least three or four nights at a time.
“You don’t come in for a day,” Cubas told the commission. “It’s a lot of hard work setting up the unit.”
A traffic study, including a traffic impact analysis of the U.S. 58 corridor, will be conducted by the West Piedmont Planning District Commission, in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Transportation.
If the rezoning is approved by the board of supervisors, the traffic study will be completed before J. Cubas Holdings applies for a special-use permit.
Commission member Janet Mease asked whether the resort would allow users to become permanent residents. Cubas said the project would not be for anyone to stay permanently.
“Under Virginia law, it’s a transient resort,” Cubas said, adding that the maximum stay could only be for 180 days.
During public comment, resident Tara Clayton expressed concerns about the possible noise impact and wondered how the resort would affect the electric grid, as well as farmers.
“Is this going to put a strain on our electric grid?” Clayton said. “Is this going to impact these farms that are raising cattle?”
She also wondered aloud about how it would affect the safety of the neighborhood, especially children.
Resident Irvin Moss said of the proposal, “We know this is about big money.”
Moss said he was “sick and tired of people thinking the casino is the answer to all of our problems.”
“We do not want this in our community,” he said of the RV resort.
He also called Cubas’ track record, which includes four upcoming RV park projects, into question. Cubas, 62, said he has been in the RV park industry since he was 15 years old.
Responding to residents’ concerns, Cubas said that when the resort was designed, an exit was included on Vandola Church Road.
“We didn’t want that exit,” Cubas said.
However, it was added because emergency service agencies always want a secondary exit with such projects, he said.
“If we can eliminate the exit off Vandola Church Road, we can eliminate 90% of their [residents’] concerns,” Cubas said.
The 5-3 vote in favor of recommending rezoning included Henderson, Gary Oakes, Darrell Dalton, Richard Waters and Mease voting yes, and Board Chairman H.F. Haymore Jr., and members Brian K. Horne and Nathan Harker voting no.