BERRYVILLE — Battletown Drive is too narrow for people to park their vehicles along without obstructing traffic, according to local officials.
That determination largely prompted Berryville Town Council on Tuesday to deny a woman a special-use permit (SUP) she sought to accommodate people visiting her home-based business.
In June, Beaumont House Design owner Julie Wheeler Abrera obtained a zoning permit so a log cabin demolished elsewhere could be reassembled outside her home at 204 Battletown for use as an office. Berryille zoning rules allow home offices.
Officials said, however, that Abrera needed the SUP to meet with clients and hold floral design workshops at her home office. Abrera said she has been holding workshops elsewhere.
The Berryville Planning Commission recommended that the permit be approved with three conditions. Abrera would not be able to hold more than six workshops there annually, and each could have no more than 12 participants. Workshops could be held only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., and participants would have to park on the property until there was no more room for vehicles.
Abrera told the council she has enough room on her property to accommodate six vehicles, and she thinks there is enough room on the street in front of her house to accommodate six more. She mentioned that Battletown Drive is a public street and that parking generally is allowed in public rights of way.
Various people — including a neighbor — submitted to the town letters of support for Abrera’s request. They attested that Abrera is of good character and they believe she would do everything she can to minimize the impact of her business on the neighborhood.
Not everyone agrees with the latter assertion.
Tim Mercer, whose mother lives across the street, said an event at Abrera’s home on July 14 resulted in guests parking about 20 vehicles along both sides of the street. He indicated that the vehicles restricted normal traffic flow.
Because of its narrowness, Battletown Drive has no curbs or sidewalks, and “two small cars can barely pass each other,” Mercer said.
Numerous people in the neighborhood called police during the event, he said, and “then and only then” were the vehicles moved.
Abrera said the event was a private affair that had nothing to do with her business.
A neighborhood resident, Sara Mitchell, said she agreed with Mercer’s comments. She recalled a medical emergency that occurred on the street a few years ago that resulted in traffic congestion.
“This is a residential area. It’s not a business area,” Mitchell said.
“I like Julie. I want her business to succeed,” she continued, but in terms of any future expansion, “it has nowhere to go.”
Clarke County Emergency Services Director Brian Lichty measured Battletown Drive and determined its average width is 18 feet. In a letter to Christy Dunkle, assistant town manager for community development and operations, he wrote that is two inches less than desired under the state fire code.
“It is my concern,” Lichty wrote, “that any vehicle parked alongside the road would further reduce this width. This therefore causes problems with the ability of fire apparatus to access the parcel and/or other parcels located within the general area in the event of an emergency.”
“I have to support the fire and rescue director,” said Jay Arnold, the council’s recorder. “We asked for an opinion (from an emergency services professional), and we got an opinion.”
“Safety comes first” when issuing a permit is considered, said Councilwoman Erecka Gibson. “That’s not an option for me.”
The council voted 2-4 not to grant the permit. Donna McDonald, Erecka Gibson, Jay Arnold and Patricia Dickinson voted against granting it.