The West Virginia Renaissance Festival came up against a road block last week when the Greenbrier County Board of Zoning Appeals denied their appeal for an exception regarding plans for the festival, scheduled to open this June.
The exception would allow commercial activity on a 10.78 acre parcel of the Hollow Hills Farm property, which is zoned as open space conservation. Open space conservation is defined as an “area of protected or conserved land or water on which development is indefinably set aside.” Article 900, detailing open space conservation usage, states that special exemption usages already include golf courses, group recreational or sports facilities, public libraries and museums, as well as bed and breakfasts, but the list does not explicitly include fairs or festivals.
Essentially, the zoning specifically prohibits any commercial activities, which causes issues as far as holding a Renaissance festival with vendors selling goods. The buildings currently in place are on the zoned side, with unzoned side being originally designated as a parking lot, since it is a hay field. Unless the exception is granted, vendors will not be able to use the current structures to sell wares.
Around 25 years ago, Hollow Hills Farm was the Jerritt Farm, and the owners zoned the land the way they did to avoid commercial development in order to safeguard the area. The 300-plus acre estate is 194 acres of open space conservation land and 130 acres of unzoned land.
After the zoning meeting, the festival shared on their Facebook page (@wvrenfest) that, “Sadly our appeal was denied by the Greenbrier County Board of Zoning Appeals. However, the show goes on, if currently limited in some ways, and there are some other avenues to pursue.” They went on to say, “At other Renaissance fairs you can come in, watch a show while enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine, walk past a few shops on the way to the next stage, stop and play some games of skill, listen to music in the shade while eating a roast turkey leg or ice cream, do a little more shopping while the kids are in the playground, etc. I am concerned that by separating the different experiences it will make a poor impression on visitors from other shows and simply not be as enjoyable or profitable for all concerned. And since the zoning ordinance in this case is not going to change the traffic flow or noise level, or protect from pollution that would otherwise be avoided, we don’t see that it is beneficial to anyone to enforce it in this way. Let us make the best impression and put together the best show we can so that it can reflect the best possible light on Greenbrier County.”
The fair still plans to run from June 9 through July 1 on Saturdays and Sundays. Visit the Renaissance festival’s Facebook page, “WV Renaissance Fair” or @wvrenfest for more information and updates.