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Friday, December 28, 2012

Waterfront Inn seeks zoning change for expansion

An aerial view of the Westlake Waterfront Inn (foreground) in Hardy. Indian Pointe Marina sits across from the inn on Morewood Road. Inn owner Ron Webb wants to add a bait-and-tackle shop, boat slips and gas pump at the point.								  - Submitted by Felicia Fischell

An aerial view of the Westlake Waterfront Inn (foreground) in Hardy. Indian Pointe Marina sits across from the inn on Morewood Road. Inn owner Ron Webb wants to add a bait-and-tackle shop, boat slips and gas pump at the point. - Submitted by Felicia Fischell

"I'm not much of a businessman," said Ron Webb, owner of Westlake Waterfront Inn in Hardy.

But Webb recognizes he must make changes to retain his base of loyal customers and improve on the conveniences offered to attract new guests.

Webb wants to expand his facilities and services at the inn and has asked the Franklin County Board of Supervisors to amend the proffers of his zoning.

Plans are to add a bait-and-tackle shop, six to eight additional boat slips and a gas pump at the 24-room hotel at the end of Morewood Road. The additions would be built to the right of the boat launch and left of the sunset point gazebo. The additional slips would be fewer than what were originally allocated in the fall of 1997, when the Ratliff family built the hotel and marina, but they are more than were there when Webb bought the hotel in 2004.

But those plans are being actively opposed by some of Webb's neighbors.

Since the zoning poster was placed at the entrance to the Waterfront Inn in early fall, some neighbors have written letters detailing their objections to members of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors. The supervisors will hold a hearing Jan. 15 to consider Webb's request.

Regina Rodwell-Bell, who lives on Morewood Road, said she had written a letter to Bob Camicia, the Gills Creek representative on the board of supervisors. In it, Bell said she expressed her greatest concerns about the inn's expansion. They include safety issues concerning traffic along Morewood Road; the environmental impact of pumping gasoline at the lake; and concerns about noise and interruption of tranquility.

Rodwell-Bell said that unlike her neighbors and her mother, who lives in Chestnut Creek, about a mile from the inn, she did not receive notification by mail from the county about the proposed zoning changes.

Anonymous letters have been distributed to homeowners who live near the inn, pointing out that a marina and bait store already exist (at Indian Pointe Marina), and that the "duplication of services would not be to anyone's best interest for the community."

Tim Wray, owner of Magnum Boating at Indian Pointe Marina, declined comment on the proposed changes at the Waterfront Inn, which is across the street from his business.

Camicia said he had received a number of letters from concerned homeowners and that Webb had asked that the date of the hearing, originally scheduled for Nov. 20, be postponed to allow time for him to try to dispel the fears of his neighbors.

Camicia said Webb would have to obtain approval from Appalachian Power to construct anything below the 800-foot waterline if the supervisors were to grant Webb's request.

The downturn in the economy has forced the closing of at least one nearby resource for anglers - Virginia Sportsmen. Webb said he hopes to establish a bait-and-tackle shop in a 20-by-40-foot building that would be located with the slips and an above-ground gas pump at the point. He also plans to include a minnow tank for those who frequent a nearby "honey-hole" where crappie run.

Fred and Deborah Parmesano of Walkertown, N.C., have been staying at Westlake Waterfront Inn three or four weeks each year for the past three years. They are avid anglers who stop in Rocky Mount to stock up on minnows and arrive at the inn with their boat trailered and fully gassed up.

Webb said he believes the expansion will make it more convenient for guests such as the Parmesanos and others who come to fish, boat and swim in the lake. They would be able to fill up their boats and purchase bait at the same location where they are staying.