Ed. — From the Sunday, April 24, print edition.
VIRGINIA BEACH — A new project that could reshape the village of Pungo would start with an upscale wedding venue proposed for part of an existing horse farm and eventually grow to include a 10-acre commercial area at the intersection of Indian River and Princess Anne roads.
The project would be built in phases at Back Bay Farms pending approvals, according to Mike and Megan Daubert, who developed the concept and recently have met with a city advisory body and officials about the project. The plan is in its early stages with a number of hurdles ahead, but the Dauberts are now in the process of seeking a conditional use permit for the wedding and event venue.
Mike Daubert on Monday, April 11, told the Virginia Beach Agriculture Advisory Commission he and his wife noted the need for wedding venues when they moved to the city in 2015. They expanded the idea for a venue to include the commercial component, and then they found the right property to accommodate it.
“I took that dream for a wedding venue and added on an idea for a village, something that would bring people more often, bring wedding parties and wedding guests earlier to visit and stay longer,” Mike Daubert said.
“When we found Back Bay Farms at the corner of Indian River and Princess Anne and started digging into it, we realized it was basically the perfect property for our idea,” he added.
Mike and Megan Daubert have backgrounds in real estate and marketing, respectively, and Megan Daubert worked as a wedding planner for several years in Charlottesville.
“The vision we arrived at on our own perfectly aligns with the city’s vision for the property,” Mike Daubert said, noting that the project would mix commercial and agricultural uses.
It is located within the transition area, a kind of development buffer between urban and suburban areas and rural communities south of Indian River Road. The Dauberts said the plan is consistent with the city’s comprehensive land-use plan and a 2006 advisory plan for the Pungo village area.
Among other things, the comprehensive plan for the rural area of the city encourages appropriate commercial uses to be focused in the small hubs such as Pungo village or Creeds amid largely rural communities. There already is an existing wedding venue in the Pungo village, Culpepper Barn, and some members of the city’s Agriculture Advisory Commission noted the placement of the proposal appeared to be a strength when the Dauberts briefed them about their plans on Monday, April 11.
“It’s in the transitional area,” Commissioner Billy Vaughan said during the meeting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. “To me, it’s about the perfect spot to have something like that. It’s better than all the houses that were going to go in there at one time.”
“It’s better than the previous proposal,” Commissioner Jason Dawley added during the meeting.
During a discussion, Vaughan asked whether the plan would include quarters for people involved in weddings at the site.
“We’re working with planning,” Mike Daubert said. “They said a country inn (designation) is the only thing allowed there so we’re working with them on figuring that out. Some sort of cottages for the wedding party.”
“Small scale to be able to have you and your wedding party stay on site, yes,” Megan Daubert added.
The Dauberts said they have met with the Culpeppers about their plans, and they did not believe they would be in competition for business at their new venue.
“This is complimentary,” Megan Daubert said. “There are way more weddings happening in our city, in the 757, than we can accommodate as a city.”
Carolyn Culpepper of Culpepper Barn and Pungo Realty on Tuesday, April 19, said she wished the Dauberts well with their plan. “We’re thrilled with what we’re doing and have no intentions of competing with the people across the street,” Culpepper said.
Back Bay Farms was to have been part of a previous development project initially called Pungo Ridge and later Harvest Farms, but that proposal collapsed after concerns about stormwater management and the density of residential units sought by its developers.
Gene Hansen, who owns the farm, could not be reached for comment this past week¬, but the Dauberts said they have agreements in place for a lease for the initial phase of the project and then to purchase the property. The new plan is different from the Harvest Farms proposal, which also sought to accentuate rural life in its design, because no residential development is proposed.
Much of the property would remain pasture and the horse farm will remain, the Dauberts said during an interview with The Independent News.
In a later phase following development of the venue, 10 acres of commercial area would extend from the intersection along the Indian River Road area of the property, including three acres at the corner already zoned for commercial use.
The could include 20 to 30 retail units with a walkable, village feel and parking areas on either side. “We want to compliment what already exists in Pungo,” Megan Daubert said during an interview.
The project hopefully would appeal to tourists and locals alike, they said.
“We also would love and are building into our plans just a lot of community gathering spaces – we have three small children – places that I can bring them to run in the open green glass and play and I can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with my friends,” Megan Daubert told the city agriculture commissioners.
“We want it to be a hub and a gathering place for the community,” Mike Daubert said.
“The horse farm is always going to exist,” Megan Daubert added.
The Dauberts this month applied for a conditional use permit to allow assembly uses for an event venue on the property, an approval that would clear the way for the initial phase – a wedding center – on a portion of the 68 acres of land in the project area.
According to the application, about three acres would be used for the venue, and there is a ground lease for the site on the western portion of the property near the existing horse farm.
The venue would be about 7,000 square feet, including a ball room and catering area, and, according to the application, “feel like a luxury, pastoral, southern barn that blends into the horse farm and community while being a focal point of events and the property.”
The application could go before the Virginia Beach Planning Commission this summer, followed by the City Council, which would need to approve such a request.
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