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UPDATE: The Middleburg town council approved Sheila Johnson's 168-room Salamander Resort and Spa last evening. We missed the story in this morning's Washington Post. Johnson is aiming to open the resort in 2009.
Johnson, the co-founder of BET and the country's first female African American billionaire, has been trying to get the resort off the ground since 2002. A vote that was to have taken place last month is set for sometime this month. So, no final approval. Once again. Approval is expected.
In the meantime, Johnson's expanding her empire. At last, we have another female hotelier to write about other than Anouska Hempel.
When news broke back in 2002 that Sheila Johnson was planning to build a smallish high-end inn and spa in Middleburg, Virginia, a.k.a. Horsey Set Central, many of us in the Washington, D.C., area were thrilled. Finally, a destination spa right in our own backyard. Intimate, too. The initial description was that a 40-room property. Middleburg's about an hour outside of D.C. The closest resorts -- The Greenbrier in West Virginia, The Lodge at Lochwood in Pennsylvania - are four-plus hours away by car.
No one, least of all Johnson, the country's first female African American billionaire, could have predicted that it would take five years of legal wrangling to get permission to construct Salamander Resort & Spa. (At some point, the proposed inn morphed to a proposed resort. Along with The Woodlands Resort & Inn, it's part of Salamander Hospitality.) The resort was to be built on the edge of town on a 350-acre tract that previously belonged to Pamela Harriman, the former Ambassador to France and a major Democratic Party fundraiser. Community opposition to the development was fierce.