Guests at a country inn planned at Bowling Brook Farm in Middleburg would be able to play croquet on the lawn, walk or bike on trails, enjoy afternoon tea and even drop a fishing line in a pond.
"It will be a place to get away and relax," said F. Mark Gross, who owns the farm and wants to open a bed-and-breakfast operation in the manor house.
Gross also owns the 13-room Westminster Inn at 5 S. Center St. and has owned Bowling Brook, a 225-acre horse farm, since 1989. He hopes to open the country inn this fall with four bedrooms, but said it could be expanded to eight.
Gross must have permission from the county Board of Zoning Appeals to open the inn. Yesterday, he presented his plans to the board, and Chairman John Totura said a written decision will be issued "within a reasonable time."
Westminster attorney Michael G. Ritchey, who represented Gross, said the inn "will attract people to the county. It will promote tourism."
The county has seven other bed-and-breakfast establishments.
The manor house at Bowling Brook already has been renovated, and Ginna and David Welsh, who would be the inn's caretakers, have been living there for about a month.
Ginna Welsh said she has worked as a waitress at Rudy's 2900 Restaurant in Finksburg for nine years. Her husband is the pub and courtyard manager at the Westminster Inn. Both are 29.
David Welsh said room rates will range from $85 to $140 a night. Two rooms have Jacuzzis.
Gross said he plans to offer packages that include a gift certificate for dinner at the Westminster Inn and limousine service there and back. Gross said he also would like to rent the inn for weddings, which would be catered by the Westminster Inn.
One neighbor attended yesterday's hearing. Barbara Watt asked if Gross would have to come back before the board if he wanted to open a restaurant for the public at the farm. Totura said another hearing would be required for that change.
Gross said he does not plan to serve meals to the public and does not want a liquor license.
The manor home was built as a German farmhouse in 1837, he said. In 1878, Wynham Walden, a horse trainer who owned Bowling Brook, converted it to a Victorian home. In the 1920s, Walden's son removed the third floor and gave the home its current Georgian look, Gross said.
Bowling Brook was a boarding and training farm for thoroughbred horses until January when a fire destroyed its historic round barn and killed nine horses. Gross said he hopes to rebuild the barn, but won't do it this year. There are no horses at the farm now.
State Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Westminster real estate broker and appraiser, testified at yesterday's hearing that Bowling Brook Farm's full value had been assessed at $1.39 million.
The Bowling Brook Boys Home, a residence for delinquent youths, is adjacent to the farm.