The Sanctuary at Barrel Oak Application

*Update: The Sanctuary at Barrel Oak application has been postponed at the applicant’s request.

On October 17, 2019, the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend denial of the application. Commissioner’s Bob Lee (Marshall District), Adrienne Garreau (Scott District), and Matthew Smith (Cedar Run District) were in the majority.

The owner of Barrel Oak Winery would like to build a hotel, restaurant, and event center on a 50-acre parcel next to the existing winery. The site is about 2 miles west of Marshall on Grove Lane. The application requires the approval of four special exceptions: 1) Lodge/Resort, 2) Event Facility, 3) Above Ground Storage Tanks, and 4) Alternative Onsite Septic System exceeding 1,200 gallons per day. The applicant has asked for a 10-year approval, including a 5 year grace period while construction is underway.

What is Proposed:

  • 32,000 sq. ft. lodge with 42 rooms, restaurant, and meeting space
  • Rooms to accommodate up to 84 guests per night
  • 78 outdoor events per year (i.e. weddings, corporate, and agricultural events) with up to 160 attendees per weekend/holiday event and 80 on non-holiday weekdays
  • Events may occur between 10am-12am on weekends and 10am-10pm weekdays
  • Restaurant seating will accommodate 50 people
  • Restaurant will operate 7 days a week from 6 am-9 pm Monday-Thursday and till 10 pm  Friday-Sunday
  • Additional amenities to be provided include a swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, spa, greenhouse and garden, cooking courses utilizing locally-sourced products, horseback riding, raptor viewing and release, trail hiking, historic tours (including John Marshall House, enology and wine-tasting presentations), and vineyard harvesting experiences
  • 147-vehicle parking area (grass & gravel)
  • 6,000-gallon steel potable water tank located on a rise in the forested area 100 yards to the east of the proposed lodge
  • 3 additional non-potable water storage tanks for fire suppression in the same location with a total static capacity of up to 180,000 gallons needed

Two Main Concerns:

1) Hotels and Restaurants Belong in Town:
Fauquier County’s Comprehensive Plan directs commercial activity to our towns and ‘service districts’ which includes nearby Marshall. The goal is to preserve our rural areas and efficiently build and maintain public infrastructure for the benefit of businesses and residents. We believe a hotel and restaurant of this size belong in nearby Marshall, not two miles west of it. 

Marshall needs this kind of investment. The application includes 4 water storage tanks, a large scale alternative onsite septic treatment facility, widening of the lengthy driveway, and parking for 147 vehicles. If located in Marshall, all of this investment would be going into public water and sewer infrastructure, sidewalks, possible shared parking, and landscaping in Marshall. Diffusing private investment by allowing economic development in places not served by any such infrastructure creates stranded assets in the landscape that can become a burden rather than an asset if they fail.

Additionally, a hotel and restaurant in Marshall would benefit in-town businesses by attracting more foot traffic. As proposed, the Sanctuary at Barrel Oak may very well pull away shoppers who currently come into Marshall to dine in town or pick up picnic lunches to eat at the winery.

2) Combined Impacts On Small Rural Area: 
There are already two activity centers in close proximity, Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery and Barrel Oak Winery and Farm Taphouse. All three venues would be accessed from Grove Lane within 0.8 miles of each other. Grove Lane is a local collector that is designated a scenic Virginia Byway. This 0.8-mile stretch has a narrow bridge over Bolling Branch which can catch drivers unfamiliar with the area off-guard. VDOT’s 2015 estimates show the road carrying an average of 2,100 daily vehicle trips. In the past three years, there have been 7 serious accidents in that short 0.8-mile stretch including 2 fatalities.

Blue Valley Vineyard has a 27,000 sq. ft. winery and tasting room which bottles 10,000 cases of wine per year for customers and hosts about 20 weddings per year along with numerous special corporate occasions according to a recent interview in Country ZEST and Style Magazine. 

Barrel Oak Winery has a permit from the County to host 24 events per calendar year with a maximum of 250 attendees per event and one 500-person event per year. Barrel Oak produces 10,000 cases of wine per year and brews a variety of local beers on-site according to their website. On peak activity days (an estimated 5 Saturdays out of the year according to their application) Barrel Oak Winery has as many as 1,500 visitors on a single day.

The historic John Marshall House and Washington Area Animal Adoption Group are also located in this small area. All of this activity in a condensed rural area raises significant concerns about the groundwater supply, traffic on Grove Lane, and quality of life impacts on neighbors such as noise and lighting. 

Opportunity for Public Input:
The Board of Supervisors will be holding a public hearing on Thursday, February 13 at 6:30pm (10 Hotel St. Warrenton, VA). However, written comments can be submitted anytime before this date and will be included in the Commissioner’s packet on this issue. Comments should be sent to:

Staff Lead – Adam Shellenberger (
County Supervisors –
Planning Commissioners – 
Bob Lee, Marshall District –
Matthew Smith, Cedar Run District –
John Meadows, Lee District –
Diane Roteman, Center District –
Adrienne Garreau, Scott District –

Additional Background Information:

  • The application states that the restaurant will only serve guests of the Sanctuary at Barrel Oak. However, the restaurant has 50 seats and will operate 15 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. It seems unlikely that the hotel, which has a maximum capacity of 84 guests, would be able to solely support the operation. We believe the restaurant will eventually be open to the public and the County will not have the ability to monitor or enforce the requirement that the restaurant will only serve hotel guests. Restaurants are only allowed by special exception in rurally zoned areas as an adaptive reuse of a historic structure. This is because restaurants use significant amounts of water, require large scale septic systems, water pressure sufficient for fire suppression, and can significantly impact traffic on rural roads. The purpose of allowing occasional adaptive reuses is to incentivize the rehabilitation of historic structures in areas where the impacts won’t be detrimental to public health, safety, and welfare. 
  • Event centers are limited to locations served by major collector roads, but this standard can be waived by the Board. Grove Lane is a local collector, not a major collector, and we do not feel this standard should be waived. 
  • The applicant has not completed a hydrogeologic study to demonstrate that the groundwater is sufficient to support a restaurant, hotel, and 78 events a year without impacting neighbors’ wells. The applicant’s consultant estimated the proposed use would consume 11,000 gallons per day. Applicants with projects of this scale typically provide hydrogeologic testing studies. 
  • With 78 events per year, it is likely there will be an outdoor event in the evening nearly every weekend between April and October. Outdoor events with amplified music could go as late as midnight, this is much later than most rural event permits allow to avoid noise nuisance and pollution. Allowing this commercial development will encourage more high-intensity, non-agricultural uses in rural areas throughout the county.
  • Allowing a hotel and restaurant outside the Marshall service district will weaken the county’s service district strategy to the detriment of current and future investors in the service districts. 
  • The proliferation of commercial operations in rural areas taxes our emergency services and increases infrastructure needs at the taxpayers’ expense.

Links to Additional Background: 
Application Information:
TREDS Accident Data:
VDOT Traffic Counts:
FauquierNow News Article:
Fauquier Times News Article:
Opinion Letter by Patricia Ewing:
Opinion Letter by Kevin Ramundo: 
PEC’s Comments Sent to Planning Commission:
FauquierNow News Article:
Fauquier Times News Article:

Julie Bolthouse
Fauquier Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council