HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Henrico County has approved a new permit for the Lilly Pad, a popular waterfront restaurant on the James River that was on the verge of being shut down due to a lack of required permits.

The Board voted unanimously to approve the provisional use permit (PUP), following the recommendation of county staff and the planning commission. The permit applies to the Lilly Pad and the Kingsland Marina, to which it is attached.

Running Afoul

The Kingsland Marina was opened in 1961, receiving a county conditional use permit. Over the next 30 years, those permits were renewed and expanded, transferring the marina to new owners and allowing expansion of the facilities.

In the staff report for the property’s newest permit, county officials wrote that the concrete building where the Lilly Pad is now located was always shown on these plans, but none note when, exactly, the restaurant opened.

Staff wrote that new owners made extensive additions starting in 2020, “including the expansion of the building (restaurant) and the footprint of the outdoor dining.”

That brought the restaurant into conflict with county zoning ordinances and existing provisional use permits – meaning the restaurant could have been shut down if it didn’t receive an updated approval.

The newly approved permit will allow the Lilly Pad to continue operating not only as a restaurant, but also as a music venue and outdoor dance floor.

Making Themselves Heard

The owners of the Lilly Pad and Henrico County held a community meeting on April 4, which over 300 people attended in the county’s estimation.

“All individuals who spoke were in support of the PUP,” county officials wrote. “No one spoke in opposition.”

Staff also received 50 emails about the project, with most supporting the granting of a permit. However, a few nearby residents wrote that they were concerned about “noise, traffic impacts, and improper permitting.”

But at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, a representative of those neighbors said they were satisfied with the conditions developed by staff to limit noise and other impacts.

“We ask that you support this request with the conditions recommended by the staff report,” he said.

Conditions May Apply

The Lilly Pad’s owners aren’t getting a blank check to run their restaurant. The county imposed several conditions on the property to help protect the local environment and reduce noise levels for nearby residents.

“Approval of a PUP with appropriate conditions would take steps to minimize negative impacts, as well as require the applicant to obtain any necessary permits required by other governmental agencies,” the staff wrote. “Including any that may be required due to environmental impacts associated with the site’s location on the James River.”

While the entire property is zoned for agricultural uses – which allows the operation of a marina, but not typically a restaurant – most of the land is also within the James River Resource Protection Area (RPA). That means it’s subject to extra regulations on stormwater runoff and other potential impacts on the river, and will have to seek extra approvals from the state.

“These include an Erosion & Sediment Control plan, a Water Quality Impact Assessment, a Stormwater Management Plan, a Floodplain Development Permit, and a No-Rise Certificate with hydrologic and hydraulic analysis,” staff wrote.

Locations of the county’s sound study, where sound will not exceed normal conversation levels. (Map courtesy of Henrico County)

The PUP also includes limits on noise levels, especially in regard to live music. The restaurant will only be allowed to play music until 11 pm most nights, with cutoffs at 9 and 6 on Wednesdays and Sundays respectively, while music is not allowed at all on Tuesdays.

The conditions also set hard limits on how loud the music can be, setting a 90-decibel limit on the restaurant’s sound system. That limit is based on a sound study conducted by county staff, which will ensure that noise levels at the edges of the property will be no louder than normal conversation.