Happy campers: Commission smiles on pool-to-camp plan

Field Camp founder Todd Barnett is one step closer to buying the historic Blue Ridge Swim Club after the Albemarle County Planning Commission recommended approval of a special use permit February 22. While commissioners cited dozens of letters from Swim Club neighbors supportive of Barnett's plan, other neighbors say they're willing to fight to keep the camp out of the neighborhood.

"It is not an acceptable use of the property," says Frazier Bell, a 33-year neighbor to the Blue Ridge Swim Club– a 13-acre parcel featuring a unique, century old, hundred-yard-long spring-fed pool.

Bell says he objects to the potential noise and traffic he believes the Camp will bring and, in particular, by its founder's plan to construct a 2,000 square-foot outdoor pavilion.

"Twice as long as most houses," Bell says an email following the hearing. "And, it will mean clearing a large area for the structure and around it. They plan on campfires. No one addressed the possibility of fire safety."

Bell is not alone in opposition. At least five other Owensville Road-area residents, including Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins, expressed concerns at the recent hearing, most stressing the potential for increased traffic, trespassing, and noise from the estimated 60 campers who attend Field Camp at any one time during the summer months.

"Any rational person can expect that a significant amount of noise will be generated," said Cathy O'Donoghue, whose property adjoins the Club. "I feel our quality of life will undoubtedly suffer."

But those who support Barnett's plan– which would save the historic pool and spare the property from development– convinced the Commissioners, who voted 7-0 to approve Barnett's purchase and 6-1 to approve a 10-year permit for the Camp, which, for 11 years, has been operated at Camp Albemarle on Free Union Road.

"I can't imagine a better noise to listen to than a bunch of kids having a good time," said Shirley Cunningham, whose property backs up to the Club. "I cannot imagine anything in this day and time where kids can walk to a structured event five days a week."

Other supporters suggested that the ubiquitous summer sound of lawnmowers and music from stereos presents more disruption to summer idylls than any camp and pointed out the summer break from nearby Meriwether Lewis Elementary School means that Owensville Road should have plenty of capacity for dropping off and picking up happy campers.

Barnett offered to restrict the number of people on-site at any time to 200 and asserted that two-thirds of campers will ride a bus to and from camp each day. He did note that he plans to upgrade the septic system to accommodate pool members, campers, and holiday events that might be held on site.

With Planning Commission approval, the Board of Supervisors will get the final say on the matter by early April, Barnett hopes. It won't necessarily be smooth sailing (or instant kumbayahs), however, as some neighbors may be there to oppose the move.

"We plan to fight it," Bell promises.



"Any rational person can expect that a significant amount of noise will be generated," said Cathy O'Donoghue, whose property adjoins the Club. "I feel our quality of life will undoubtedly suffer."

One can well imagine the Native Americans making a similar comment back in 1607 when the hardy folk arrived and founded Jamestown. And if we could go back just a bit in time before many remember, I would have voted that those beautiful farms between the club and Ivy stay farms, and not the subdivisions they are today. The Field Camp won't be a big deal. Get over it. Oh but wait, someone will want an environmental impact study as the minutiae flows freely....

I would like very much to own property there near the pool, and enjoy the children's laughter and play. It seems a natural for this use and I think the community should actually be grateful this rare resource is saved.

why does he keep calling it a summer camp? It is a daycare operation that happens to run in the months of June, July and August.

Would you want a daycare facility to move in next door?

I know Todd Barnett and he will maintain and improve this property to the betterment of our community. He has years of experience with campers and students, he will demand that they conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. The children participating in the camps will enjoy a memorable summer just as the original campers did when the site was developed over a century ago. How awesome that rather than turning the site into another housing development, we are able to preserve a true treasure and take it back to its original and intended purpose.

I pretty much grew up summers at Blue Ridge in the 1960s. Back then, it was one of the few places that families could go and swim with Jews, Blacks and whites together. There were neighbors who didn't like that idea, either. I am ALL FOR the Field Camp!

What is the by right development potential for that land? Seems like that would create similar traffic and potentially more noise. At least these kids will be supervised.

Let them set up in another neighborhood -- how about yours Douglas Day? -- and let's see how it goes. And what does playing the "race, ethnic" card have to do with any of this. Talk about getting off point!

Hey Pollyanna, how about inviting the campers into your neighborhood for the summer?

Problem is adequately supervising adolescents who'll be sleeping in tents overnight in close proximity to established residential areas where other adolescents live. Ever heard of asking for trouble?

How many strikes should the camp be allowed? Given the odds, should be "zero tolerance." One and done!

Some land uses just aren't compatible. Life changes. Things evolve. Some anachronisms need to go. Nostalgia often clouds reason. And it's always really easy to put an unwanted something in somebody else's backyard.

Please focus on the real issue -- daytime activities, probably OK. Nighttime activities, NOT OK!

Those Native Americans would have been pretty much right.

Is the special use permit tied to Todd being the owner of the corporation that is buying the property?

Couldn't he just sell the Field Camp entity to ACAC or anybody else who watches over somebody's kids for a buck? How would everyone feel if Todd sold this entity to somebody else in a few years?

I am a Field School and Field Camp parent. I think I know Todd Barnett pretty well. He is a compassionate, ethical, and creative leader who very much endeavors to leave a positive impact and encourages those around him to do the same. I cannot conceive of the camp ending up as anything but a welcome addition to the Blue Ridge Swim Club community. There is no need to fear Field Camp or Todd Barnett. A. Weems

To address some mis information in her.
One,fire safety was addressed. Any special use permit application includes a review by the County Fire chief who signed off on this. They have to notify the Fire Dept. any time they plan to build a fire. Knowing the values of the Field Camp I am confident they will only do this under safe circumstances. Any woods are a fire hazard but this wont be more of one.
And the special use permit is tied to the land, not the owner. however, the Planning Commission recommendation includes a 10 year limit on the Camp use (no limit on the Pool use) so he or another owner will need to request a special use again in 10 year, presuming the BOS approves this condition.

I am sure that Mr. Barnett is a good and honest businessman. However, all property owners in the immediate area SHOULD be concerned about their property resale. This "camp" will definitely impact their resale value...and not in a good way. No one wants to live next door or very near a "camp". That's just a plain fact. There is also gong to be a large impact of traffic on Owensville Road...a road that already is curvy and with blind spots in the vicinity of the camp. Be prepared for accidents. Folks in that area DO NEED to be concerned and voice their opposition if so inclined. There is power in numbers.

If you read the posts from the Daily Progress about this it's clear that Mr. Barnett really does not care about what the neighbors think about his proposal. If you read his last post in the comments section he says that he may build cabins for his camp on the property. Like the IvyConcerned neighbor who is concerned about their resale value wait until you have to sell your house and you have to disclose that the are cabins in your neighborhood and you have 100 kids who camp out once a week. Not sure thats a real value to the neighborhood. The value is for the people who use it and then drive home. Like IvyConcerned said in the last post...if you live near the Blue Ridge Swim Club you should be concerned.

Ivy residents opposing this, need to ban together NOW vs. later. Speak to your Ivy Supervisor, Duane Snow. Those other than Cunningham, who thinks this is great...be prepared for a negative impact on your real estate value and desire for a buyer to purchase. Again....as Holkham neighbor says....a camp is great for most people/parents/kids (me included) as long as you drive home and away from it...not in your "backyard". IF this proposal passes, I would expect to see some homes in that immediate area hitting the market for sale in 2011/asap. What's up with the 2,000 sq. ft. outdoor pavilion to be built for Holiday events? Summer camp - Holiday camp - hmmmm...what next? Rental for special events? Yikes!

I'll look forward to all of the field camp and field school parents to put multiple bids on my house when I put my house up for sale next summer. That way they can be with Todd and his camp full time.

Lot of negativity here.

Again - it is not a camp. It is a daycare facility.

What's the difference between a camp and a daycare facility?

A camp is where kids stay overnight for one week or more, usually in a single sex environment. Camps usually exist in rural locations with plenty of room for exploring nature.

A daycare is a orphanage that returns the kids to their parents at the end of each workday.

Aw. That's too bad that it'll be single gender. Camps are wayy more fun when they're co-ed.