For more than an hour Wednesday, the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors heard arguments for and against a private campground in Bergton, which ultimately led to supervisors voting to table the proposal.
The discussion left the board divided, with District 5 Supervisor Mike Breeden saying he was glad a motion to table the request was made.
The widely discussed proposal came from Steven and Miranda Williamson, who are seeking a special-use permit to operate a recreational campground on agricultural zoned land located on the west side of Brocks Gap Road and south of Bergton Road.
The campground will be called River’s Edge Campground and encompass roughly 258 acres of land. The property is owned by Bernhardt Jedamski, who is seeking to sell the land to the Williamsons to use as a campground.
During Wednesday’s public hearing, Steven Williamson said the initial goal will be to have 50 sites — 40 electric and water hookup sites and 10 primitive tent sites, with hopes of expanding in the future.
According to the special-use permit report, the campground will be open from mid-March to the end of November, depending on weather. There will be two or three employees on site in the beginning, and volunteers will provide additional help. Quiet hours will be observed each night from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Williamson told the board the remaining portion of the property that is not dedicated to campsites will be used for walking or biking paths, picnic areas and fishing along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Four-wheelers and ATVs will not be permitted at the campground.
A pump station, bath house and playground are also included in site plans.
“We have no intention of building a massive campground,” Williamson said. “We are aware not everyone shares our enthusiasm for this campground, but we are hoping to bring extra support and revenue to the county we grew up in.”
To create privacy between the campground and neighboring residents, Williamson said he will plant additional trees to create a buffer zone. Signs will also be placed around the property to notify campers of where the property line ends and when they are trespassing onto a neighbor’s property.
According to the county’s GIS system, the campground will border roughly 12 landowners and the George Washington National Forest.
“We are trying to respect the neighbors’ property lines,” Williamson said.
During the public comment period, Jedamski said he has owned the property since 1993 but is selling it because he resides in Tenth Legion and the drive is too far to maintain the property.
Jedamski said he thinks Williamson’s proposal will be a “great use for the property,” adding it is better than building houses on the land.
“I would like to see it preserved, and this is a good use of the property,” he said.
Dianne Cox, a neighboring property owner, said she will be impacted the most by the campground and is in favor of the request.
“I feel confident [the land] will be well taken care of and I trust they will do everything they say they will do,” she said.
Supervisors asked Cox how close she resided to the property, to which she said roughly 400 feet away. Her property entrance and the proposed campground entrance are roughly 850 feet away from each other, she said.
Cox said any concerns she had over security and trespassing were quelled by Williamson.
Three other residents spoke in favor of the campground, including Josh Wanger, who provided supervisors with a petition signed by more than 1,800 people in support of the request.
Wanger said the Williamsons helped him during a time of need last year, and he was speaking on behalf of those who enjoy the area.
As of Thursday, the online petition 1,946 signatures supporting the Bergton campground.
Speaking in opposition of the request, adjacent property owner Michael McDonald said the petition contained a small amount of signatures from Bergton residents and asked if supervisors would support a campground in their backyards.
Another neighbor to the proposed site, Harlie Easter, said 90% of the campground will border his property.
“I’m not crazy about this because it borders everything of mine,” he said. “I am affected drastically by this.”
Easter said he has spent years keeping people off his 156-acre property near the George Washington National Forest, adding that the campground will “allow it to blossom.”
Easter’s son, Harlie Easter III, said their property is used for hunting, and if a campground were constructed, the family would no longer be able to hunt.
“It’s going to take away some of the use of our property,” he said.
District 2 Supervisor Sallie Wolfe-Garrison asked the Easters if they would offer to purchase Jedamski’s land after voicing their concerns. The younger Easter said they will not.
District 1 Supervisor Dewey Ritchie moved to table the request because of comments by Cassie Funk, who voiced public safety concerns over the lack of first responders in the area and the inability to treat a medical emergency quickly.
“I grew up in Bergton. It’s a very rare site to see a county deputy in the area,” she said.
With the campground being proposed on a floodplain and susceptible to flooding, Funk said she was worried campers would be trapped if a flood occurred and roadways were blocked.
Funk also questioned if the employees on site would be trained to handle medical needs as the Bergton Volunteer Fire Company does not take calls regularly and the next closest first responders are with the Broadway Volunteer Fire Department — more than 20 minutes away.
After public comment, the board tabled the request in a 4-0 vote. District 4 Supervisor Bill Kyger was absent.
In other business, supervisors unanimously approved special-use permit requests for a storage lot off Little Dry River Road, an agricultural spraying business off South East Side Highway, an outdoor event center off Captain Yancey Road and a hemp processing facility for Pure Shenandoah.