Resort's Request Can Wait
Perhaps it was inevitable that the Salamander Resort and Spa's developers, in order to receive approval, would first promise to go to extraordinary lengths to stay within traffic limits and then immediately turn around and break that promise. This is precisely what is happening in their special exception request for more car trips per day and 43 special events.
The inn has gone from a small country inn to a 120-room resort with 49 houses; even without the special exception permit, it is likely that Salamander-generated traffic will exceed the 600 daily car trips currently allowed. But no one knows for sure until the inn opens, and that is the time -- not now -- to consider special requests. No one is hurt by delaying consideration of expanding the inn's mandate, but much more will be known that could be critical in determining the impact.
County staff analysis points out that it is unlikely that inn guests will stay at the resort, as Salamander traffic analysts claim. Guests are likely to have come here to tour the countryside and historical sites, visit shops and restaurants, and attend horse-related and other events, thus generating more car trips than the inn is willing to admit. Special events will likely bring gridlock on the weekends they are held, and 43 events mean 43 weekends -- most of the year. I fear that Middleburg and its surrounding roads cannot accommodate this number of trips.
Residents are already alarmed by the increasing number of fatalities occurring on narrow, winding roads that were not built to handle this amount of traffic and are not being patrolled enough because of budget constraints.
My observation is that local residents who know the perilous, narrow, winding, hilly roads usually drive carefully. However, workers and nonresidents assume they are on empty country lanes, and frequently drive at unsafe speeds and travel in the middle of the road around blind hills and curves. It is likely that Salamander Resort guests, staff members and vendors will treat this road as other nonresidents do.
I strongly urge the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors not to grant this special exception at this time. Officials should wait until operations have begun at Salamander to see how inn traffic is affecting the area.