It’s been two years since Two Drummers Smokehouse was approved for a proposed 5,223-square-foot expansion.
But the building has remained the same.
“We are always throwing money at the wolves between the permits, the engineers and architects,” said co-owner Jon Wade. “And the longer the process goes the longer they’re getting paid.”
Since opening in 2013, Jon and Jason Wade have become a local staple of the upper county, he said. So much so, that now they have to grow their building to accommodate all of their customers.
In 2016, MM&W Properties, LLC, which owns the land on which Two Drummers is located, applied for a special-use permit to expand the restaurant as well as neighboring business Extra Mile Landscapes. The proposal earned unanimous support from the James City County Board of Supervisors but there still hasn’t been any headway.
Ellen Cook, principal planner for the county, said the business submitted their site plan in August 2018, and the county is waiting on adjustments before approval.
“The County and other agencies reviewed the plans against the Zoning Ordinance and other applicable regulations, and provided comments to the project engineer during September and early October,” she said “The County has not yet received a resubmittal of the site plan that addresses the comments.”
But Jon Wade said part of the reason it is taking so long is because of a number of issues on the project that require them to continuously go back to various county councils for approval.
There are a number of issues causing the project’s delay that are unique to James City County, Jon Wade said. With each new issue there has to be more plans, more meetings, and more time.
The building currently occupied by Two Drummers has maintained its comfy position close to Route 60 since the 1940s. But apparently, it’s too close.
When the building was constructed, Route 60 wasn’t as wide as it is now.
That poses an issue for the business’s plans because the building sits 30 feet from the road, while Wade said the county requires a greater distance between the road and a building.
To solve that problem, Wade said the front of the building will essentially be rotated and taken all the way to the back, extending the the structure to an L-shape.
But even that portion has yet to begin because the owners have to pass environmental and safety approvals.
“James City County is not the small entity it once was, with cornfields and a rural area,” he said. “But they have to maintain what they have and it’s a lot to protect, I get that.”
But Wade said more than 50 percent of his lot is unusable because it is protected area that cannot be developed.
Part of that is also because a stream runs through the property which means they have to maintain proper retaining ponds to avoid debris from the business running off into the water, Wade said.
“Just like with anywhere else in the county, perennial streams have protection barriers so it’s not unique to the property,” Cook said.
The first step, however, might be by creating a larger space outside.
Wade is working with the county now to not only enlarge the size of the restaurant’s parking lot, but to provide safer ease of access by creating a deceleration lane.
“These cars are pulling off at 55 (mph) and into a gravel parking lot,” he said. “Everyday I just hope that nothing bad happens to anyone.”
Wade said he has a meeting with members of the county to discuss how to move forward on the parking lot portion of the project.
With the expansion, Two Drummers would go from being able to seat 120 guests to about 300, he said.
But even with the expansion, they hope to keep its unique character that’s been built for over half a century in the community.
“We’re preserving some of the history, the environment and the character of the community in order to create something we want to give our customers,” he said.