The Lynchburg Planning Commission unanimously gave its recommendation Tuesday to amend a concept plan to allow the future construction of an event center at Bella Rose Plantation on Graves Mill Road.

Planning commission recommends inclusion event center in concept plan
Reporter: Sherese Gore 
Lynchburg News & Advance 
February 22, 2017

 

 

The developers of Bella Rose say they are seeking to keep pace with a growing demand for larger events.

Located on a more than seven-acre parcel at 1220 Graves Mill Road, Bella Rose currently is used as a wedding venue.  An antebellum manor house is located at the property as well as a mill.

Bella Rose was included as part of a concept plan for a conditional use permit for the adjacent Rosedale mixed-use commercial and residential development that was approved by Lynchburg City Council in 2014.

The concept plan currently does not include the proposed event center at Bella Rose, requiring the need to have the plan amended.

According to an architectural rendering included in meeting documents, the new facility would be three stories in height and would share an antique appearance with the existing manor. The new center would have a maximum capacity of 350 people.

No one spoke in favor or against Bella Rose’s petition during a public hearing.

One point of discussion by commissioners concerned a traffic study that was conducted in 2013 for the Rosedale development that projected traffic delays at ramps connecting Graves Mill Road to the Lynchburg Expressway will be exacerbated by growth along the corridor.

City Planner Tom Martin said a 350-seat event center will not generate nearly enough traffic as the traffic of the overall Rosedale development.

“In terms of making those ramps fail, I would highly doubt this event center would be the straw that broke the camel’s back right now,” Martin said.

The proposed amendment to the concept plan will require final approval by Lynchburg City Council, which will consider the amendment at a later date.

Commissioner Cham Light said he’s happy to see Bella Rose has been successful.

“It’s exceeded, I think, everybody’s reasonable expectations as to how nice it has contributed to the community, Light said. “When you saw a house and a piece of property, that in my mind, was in calamitous decline, I tip my hat to the parties involved that have moved the project forward.”

A two-story adult treehouse currently is being constructed on the grounds of Bella Rose and will be featured on an episode of Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters.”

After the meeting, Brian Runk, of Bella Rose, said there is no defined timeline in place for the construction of the new event center. His wife, Vickie Runk, said Bella Rose is getting many requests for larger events.

“This is really planning for the future so that as we grow, this is approved,” Brian Runk said.

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Spending a night in a treehouse is a child-hood fantasy that could come true for Lynchburg couples and visitors starting a month from now. Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters” is bringing a new honeymoon treehouse to the grounds of the Bella Rose Plantation on Graves Mill Road just in time for the wedding season.

“Treehouse Masters” specializes in constructing full-size treehouses for adults who want a Swiss Family Robinson-style getaway but with all of the comforts of a modern home.

Two-story honeymoon retreat will overlook Bella Rose wedding site 
Reporter: Margaret Carmel 
Lynchburg News & Advance 
February 17, 2017

 

 

Even though Bella Rose only just began holding weddings in May of last year, the dream for a treehouse on the property began three years ago for Vickie Runk when she and her husband, Brian, purchased the Bella Rose property with plans of establishing the wedding venue.

“I told [“Treehouse Masters”] our story, that we had this great tract of land that was historic in nature and we were only a few miles from Thomas Jefferson’s historic summer home Poplar Forest,” she said. “My idea was that we would do a Jeffersonian-style treehouse and put in lots of the components that Jefferson used back in the day because that was the time this property was fully intact.”

Scheduled to be completed after just four weeks of construction, the two-story treehouse will overlook the wedding site at the back of the Bella Rose property. The structure will be assembled in prefabricated sections and be fully anchored to the ground and the tree to prevent shifting. Upon completion, it is estimated to weigh 75,000 pounds.

Runk has been working with a designer based in New York to come up with the concept for the interior, which will be modeled in a Jeffersonian style. The structure will be an octagon shape, modeled after Poplar Forest. “This is just an unbelievable experience that I will never forget,” she said. “This is the first treehouse [the show has done] that will have actual drywall in it to resemble the plaster Thomas Jefferson used, and it will have windows top to bottom.”

Long after Runk thought they had been overlooked for a spot on the show, a call came in from “Treehouse Masters” in March 2016 about the possibility of an episode. For the show’s star and lead treehouse designer Pete Nelson, the combination of never having built a treehouse in Virginia and the proximity of the historic vacation home of Thomas Jefferson drew him to the project.

“I’m a big history buff, especially American history, so the ability to come and see Poplar Forest and build something modeled after it on this historic property was great,” said Nelson, the owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply based out of Fall City in Washington state. “I saw the Runks as having a high level of excitement and always saying ‘what’s next’ and ‘what can we do now.'”

In addition to the treehouse, the Runks also have two other major construction projects in the works for the property. In the next two months, construction will begin on a large greenhouse cathedral to host weddings inside during bad weather. Additionally, plans are in the works for a large event center capable of hosting 350 to 400 guests for larger weddings.

Bella Rose Plantation has partnered with the planned mixed-use Rosedale development located on the tract of land next to the wedding venue. In a contentious November Lynchburg City Council meeting, the council voted to allow up to $5.9 million in property taxes raised from both the Bella Rose Plantation and Rosedale properties to be reimbursed to the developers to fund the main road leading from Graves Mill Road onto the Rosedale tract over 15 years.

The Lynchburg Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed event center Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. in the second floor conference room of City Hall. City Council tentatively is scheduled to hear the petition at 7:30 p.m. April 11.

“I think that Lynchburg is in for some really great news about Rosedale, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be the start of that development,” Runk said. “It will bring a lot of great things to the city and give the community more options.”

In the meantime, Runk looks forward to the treehouse coming together.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to take this journey,” she said. “The wedding season is just kicking off for us, which means so many brides will be able to use the treehouse exactly as I had imagined it.”

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By the close of 2016 the Preserve At Oakwood, an upscale residential development located on the former fairways of the Oakwood Country Club golf course had completed the sale of all but one of its initial (28) Phase I&II custom home lots and town home Villas. Developer Dick Schoew of Hopkins Brothers LP&D and his business associates in the project, Bryant Hare and Fred Howell, say the success of the project comes as validation of a process that made saving the Oakwood’s landmark green spaces along Link Road a top priority.

The Preserve at Oakwood
Inside Boonsbono  
February Issue, 2017

 

 

Schoew said “the site plans of our primary competitor for the Oakwood project, a well known Richmond area developer, stressed an approach of maximizing housing density. On the other hand, we were the local guys who knew we would have to live with the disappointment of our peers if the finished project failed to live up to the expectations for what has arguably been considered in recent years as the finest remaining undeveloped  residential green space property in all of our Lynchburg city limits. Slicing and dicing the old golf course into another ‘cookie cutter’ housing development was simply never an option.  We just felt so strongly that an undeveloped open space of Oakwood’s size, character and location in the heart of Lynchburg’s most prized neighborhoods came with an obligation to go the extra mile.’

Currently The Preserve is introducing its Phase II with (19) new lots and Villas. For more information on the Preserve At Oakwood go to www.hopkinsbros.com.