When Donald Trump and his son Eric bought former billionaire Patricia Kluge’s 45-room mansion in 2012, completing a $12.7 million takeover of her 776-acre county estate, the younger mogul hinted it could become a boutique inn for the adjacent Trump Winery. Now those plans are coming to fruition as the Trump Hotel Collection prepares to open the house to guests as a luxury chateau. But don’t call it a hotel: Albemarle Estate, as it will be known, is classified as a bed and breakfast, and it owes its planned layout in part to a 3-year-old amendment to the county code that governs tourist lodging.
The rule change, passed by Albemarle County officials four months before Trump purchased the manse, made it easier to open B&B-type operations in areas zoned rural by allowing proprietors to use outbuildings as guest rooms. Prior to the adjustment, rooms—a maximum of five—had to be located within a single-family dwelling in which an owner or manager also lived. Supporters at the time said the change would encourage “adaptive re-use” of agricultural structures by would-be innkeepers.
In Trump’s case, the structures being adapted and reused include a pool house, which meets the county’s requirements for a single-family dwelling. The double-dwelling status means the estate can claim two “bed and breakfast uses” for the parcel, allowing for 10 lavish rooms total: Five in the main house, four in the pool house and one in a log cabin a stone’s throw away.
The setup is allowed by-right, which means Trump can proceed with no required approvals from the Planning Commission or the county Board of Supervisors. That bothers Rick Randolph, the Scottsville district commissioner. Randolph was one of two commission members who voted against the relaxed B&B rules in 2012, citing worries about overnight lodging cropping up at “Disneyland-type farm wineries” in the county’s quiet corners.
“It’s concerning, this gradual mission creep and development creep in the rural area,” Randolph said. The same worries prompted outcry from some neighbors when the Trumps announced plans for a championship golf course on the property in 2013—a proposal that was put on ice after the organization that holds a conservation easement on the land launched a legal protest.
“Increasingly,” said Randolph, “rural doesn’t mean rural any longer.”
But Eric Trump downplayed any impacts, noting that the winery’s nearest neighbors, many of whom have become “great friends” of the winery, are almost a mile away from the house.
“It will be very boutique and will only be an asset to the surrounding area,” Trump said in an e-mail.
“I think it’s less of an impact than if a family actually lived there,” said winery manager Kerry Woolard, who has moved into an apartment in the mansion, satisfying the county’s live-on-site requirement. Hotel occupancy rates here tend to be around 65 percent, she said, which she believes will translate to fewer trips per day than you’d see from a big, active household. “To me, there’s no better use of the building,” she said.
And a winery B&B is far from a new concept for this area, Woolard noted; several others already exist. She said an in-house kitchen will offer breakfast to guests, and room rates will likely be on par with those at the well-established Keswick Hall and Clifton Inn.
A few steps remain before the estate opens, including a health department well and septic inspection. But Woolard said she hopes to welcome guests in approximately a month.
“It will be an amazing asset to Charlottesville,” said Trump.