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Tim's Rivershore fans to lobby county board to save the restaurant, but supervisors’ role could be limited

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Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant and Crab house has operated on the banks of the Potomac River outside Dumfries for 28 years. 

After a Zoom meeting Thursday, about 100 supporters of Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant and Crab House vowed to attend the Prince William Board of County Supervisors meeting Tuesday to lobby county officials to help save the restaurant.

It’s unclear, however, what power the county board has over the matter because the property, which is owned by Potomac Shores’ developer SunCal, is zoned to allow a restaurant by-right. Because the area is in a floodplain, special building rules would apply. But even those limitations may be beyond the board’s authority, county officials said Friday.

“I definitely want to stay there, 100 percent,” Tim Bauckman, owner of Tim’s Rivershore, told his supporters on the call Thursday. “I want to be in Dumfries. I want to be in Prince William County.”

Bauckman announced Monday, Feb. 22, that his long-term lease for the restaurant would not be renewed. Bauckman has owned the popular summertime hangout for 28 years but sold the property in 2007 to developers that predated Potomac Shores. SunCal, the California-based developer of Potomac Shores, acquired the property in 2011, according to county land records.

Because the Rivershore is in a coastal flood zone, Bauckman said he was only allowed to make repairs worth 20% of the total value of the building after Hurricane Isabel damaged it in 2003. “[The federal government] wants buildings in a floodplain to go away eventually,” he said.

During the most recent lease negotiations, Biddle Real Estate Ventures, SunCal’s property manager, wanted Bauckman to do a number of repairs. Bauckman said it became complicated to do some of them, which were extensive, because he no longer owns the building.

“I think it’s important that we bring this to the attention of the supervisors. They may be able to do some research with planning and zoning before this becomes not just a renovation but a complete teardown and it would be gone,” he said.

“I’m super happy that everybody is behind us,” Bauckman added, encouraging supporters to attend the supervisors’ meeting. “There’s power in numbers.”

“At least we will get their attention and get them to look into the ins and outs of this,” he said.

Supervisors’ role likely limited

Biddle Real Estate Ventures said earlier this week it wants to bring a new restaurant to the site of Tim’s Rivershore and plans to open the process to other operators as well as Bauckman.

“We expect to have positive news for local residents and the surrounding community in the coming weeks, including news about new restaurant operations and renovations to the waterfront location at Potomac Shores,” Biddle said in a Tuesday, Feb. 23 statement.

“Our goal is to ensure that the site is a vibrant, safe and engaging destination for the community and for visitors arriving by car or by boat,” the statement said. 

The land on which the restaurant is built is zoned for a mix of uses, including commercial uses. “A restaurant is a by-right use in this land bay [and] no special use permit would be required,” Prince William County Planning Director Parag Agrawal said in an email Thursday.

But whether the project will require any type of review by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors depends on what is proposed for the site. A special use permit, which would require supervisors’ approval, could be required for a use not included in by-right uses. 

Tom Smith, Prince William County’s director of public works, said he couldn’t speculate if a special use permit would be needed without knowing the specific plans for the site.

“If they replace the exact same structure, the board would probably not be involved. But if they make any significant changes, the board might have to approve a special-use permit. It depends on how significant the changes may be,” Smith said. “They may need board approval from a zoning standpoint.”

Generally, floodplain issues and building code reviews would not require the board of supervisors’ review or approval, Smith added. 

Given that the existing restaurant is in the coastal floodplain, it can be repaired but the particulars depend on how significant the repairs are, Smith said.

If the repairs cost more than 50% of the value of the property, the project would be required to meet floodplain regulations, which would call for the building to be placed on stilts.

If the developer were to replace the building, it would have to meet both floodplain and building codes, Smith said.

The area around Tim’s Rivershore fell victim to a flashflood in July that trapped some people in the restaurant and damaged several vehicles. 

As a result of the flooding, Potomac Shores was charged with erosion and sediment control violations after losing some silt fencing. But the issues were resolved quickly, Smith said.

“The flood was caused by just a huge amount of rain that fell. They [made] repairs quickly. They complied quickly, within a matter of days,” Smith said.

Tim’s Rivershore has sponsored numerous charity and community events over the years, most notably the annual Polar Plunge that benefits Special Olympics. Bauckman also has Tim’s restaurants in Fairview Beach, Coles Point and Lake Anna. 

Reach Aileen Streng at aileenstreng@gmail.com

            

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