Bear’s Den residents seek protection for historic stone walls | Winchester Star

BERRYVILLE – Residents of Bear’s Den Rural Historic District seek help from Clarke County to protect the many stone walls in the district and the ambience they offer.

Scott and Lisa Seeberger want the county to enact regulations for the district similar to those already established in other historic areas such as Millwood and White Post.

Confederate forces, led by Col. John S. Mosby, operated from the district spanning the ridge along portions of the Blue Ridge Mountain and Raven Rocks roads (Route 601) near the Loudoun County line. History shows that Mosby likely used the bear cave overview as an observation post.

Listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, the district is known for its stone walls and farmhouses. Many structures were built there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Scott Seeberger, who lives on Blue Ridge Mountain Road with his wife, said the stone wall on his property was built in 1898.

He was upset when his neighbor installed a seven-foot wooden privacy fence near the wall. He said the fence worsened the historic character of the wall and hindered the scenic view.

Seeberger, a United Airlines pilot, and his wife moved to the county from Fauquier County five years ago, largely because they thought the walls were beautiful.

“We were shocked and upset,” he said, to find out that the county has no protection for the walls.

Therefore, the Seebergers recently presented a proposal at a meeting of the Clarke County’s board of directors. The proposal is based on rules New England parishes have enacted to protect similar walls in historic neighborhoods.

The proposal defines a “historic stone wall” as a vertical structure of aligned natural stone that was built until 1955 and is used to define property boundaries, separate agricultural activities within a homestead, or enclose land adjacent to a structure.

Seeberger said the proposed rules would be similar to an overlay district for Bear’s Den. Including:

• Altering, relocating, or tearing down a wall would require written approval from the Clarke County Historic Preservation Commission and the Clarke County Planning Commission. Requests for permits should include reasons and plans for the project and / or the reconstruction of the wall.

• Replacing or repairing a wall would require the use of the same materials and construction methods, preferably using as many original stones as possible.

• Walls in poor condition could not be removed from their current locations and would need to be repaired or left unchanged.

• A tree could not be planted within 10 feet of a wall to prevent its root structures from damaging the structure.

• Any fence installed near a wall must be open and no higher than the wall itself. A fence designed to house animals cannot be higher than 4½ feet.

Anyone convicted of breaking the rules would have to pay a fine of $ 100 for every day the violation occurs, the proposal shows.

Seeberger said the proposed rules are designed to balance residents’ property rights and the need to protect and preserve the stone walls.

The Seebergers have already collected 135 signatures on a petition that encourages the district to accept the rules. Conservation groups like the Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains have expressed support for their efforts.

“The board appreciates your efforts,” said the chairman of the supervisory authorities, David Weiss, after her presentation.

There was no discussion, however, and district officials have not indicated whether they will consider adopting the rules.

The proposal was also forwarded to the Clarke County Planning Commission, which advises regulators on land use issues, said Brandon Stidham, the county planning director. However, it is not on the agenda for any of the Commission’s meetings next week.

Seeberger said he and his wife are also seeking help from Loudoun County in protecting the walls within their jurisdiction.

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