Next week, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to again face the decision on whether to approve a proposed RV campground called Camp Reel Simple with short-term rental cabins at Magnum Point Marina in Union Hall.

The proposed campground would be composed of 28 RV sites and 14 cabins on 14 acres and would be set adjacent to the Magnum Point Marina, which is owned by the same applicants for the permit – John Mathena, Lauren Carter and John Fulton Jones Jr., who also co-own South Lake Motorsports LLC. The campground also would include a pool area and comfort zone and shower facility.

The Franklin County Planning Commission in December recommended approval of the proposal, but during the meeting it was discovered the owner name in the legal notice was incorrect so a second public hearing was held Jan. 8. The Board of Supervisors tabled the request after two hours of public comment during its Jan. 15 meeting until members received answers to legal questions.

While those opposed to the campground gave reasons such as traffic, aesthetic concerns and the belief that it could lead to decreased property values. There were some local businesses who publicly supported the campground, and that is understandable.

Business owners believe families would camp there as well as anglers who frequent the tournaments at the lake. Having a place to stay for a few days could increase business for local eateries, the marinas and jet-ski rentals. Perhaps other amenities might pop up down the line to provide entertainment or supplies for vacationing campers.

One business owner said it well during the Jan. 15 meeting : “We need the business because without it we can’t survive … Franklin County should be about business, too, or it is just a retirement community.”

While the population around the lake is composed significantly of retirees who enjoy their peace and quiet at the lake. Some have second homes there. But Franklin County is bigger than just Smith Mountain Lake. There is more to see and do, and a new campground, especially one that offers both cabins and RV parking, could draw in visitors to more than just the lake area.

There are more economic benefits, such as employment opportunities. The opening of one proposed campground would provide jobs for as many as 25 people, including 10 full- and 15 part-time positions. If business picks up at other area businesses, then additional jobs could be a trickle-down efSfect.

Let’s not count out the potential benefits of a lodging tax. Franklin County imposes a 5 percent lodging tax on any short-term stays under 30 days. More money for the county, could mean more money for schools, law enforcement, or anything on the county’s budget.

One fundamental thing is true — property owners have the right to develop their land, as long as it meets zoning and planning requirements. So far, the planning commission twice has recommended approval. We think the campground, if run correctly, could be a success.

(2) comments


A campground in Franklin County is a great idea... if it's in the right location. Our understanding is that this campground is supposed to be built on land that doesn't even have direct lake access, nor is any part of it waterfront. Who comes to camp at a lake to not be on the lake?

The other problem is that the location of the campground is right in the middle of a residential community. So we dug a little deeper, and it turns out, a "Special Use Permit" is needed to build this campground, because building it here violates Franklin County Code! We think the code is in place for a reason, and really ought to be respected.

We'd love to see a campground come to Franklin County. It would be great if it brought with it new jobs and more restaurants. But this sure isn't the right place to do it. Someplace right on the lake, that's not sitting in the middle of housing, makes a lot more sense. We sure hope that Franklin County does the right thing and abides by its own rules!


So that last paragraph is great:
“as long as it meets zoning and planning requirements.”
The proposed campground is in direct conflict with county future use plans. We certainly hope the board of supervisors corrects the oversight the planning commission made (with the exception of planning commission member Jim Colby who recognized from the get go that this campground would violate zoning and land use plans).
And then:
“We think the campground, if run correctly, could be a success.”
Yeah, and the project is being run by someone that the Roanoke Times indicated has declared bankruptcy twice for previous business failures and has been convicted in court for business related crimes.
Good luck with it being run correctly.

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