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Events may have violated zoning codes

Judge to rule if facility can still host weddings

By Alex Bridges - abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Historic Jordan Springs may have to stop hosting weddings and other events if a judge finds the center violated conditions of its zoning.

The Frederick County Board of Supervisors, in a petition filed in the Circuit Court earlier this week, have asked that a judge reverse a Nov. 16 decision by the Board of Zoning Appeals pertaining to the property.

Properties at 1160 Jordan Springs Road, Stephenson, were in violation of proffered conditions the Board of Supervisors approved with a rezoning application on Dec. 21, 2001, according to a letter issued Aug. 25 by Zoning Administrator Mark Cheran.

The Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, then owners of the property, sought to conditionally rezone the site from rural to general business use, according to the petition. A proffer included in the approved application limited uses of the property to services related to health, legal, engineering, accounting, research and management, as well as general business offices, public buildings and residential when accessory to business.
Historic Jordan Springs currently operates as an events and cultural center, according to its website.

The notice states Historic Jordan Springs violated the conditions of its rezoning by hosting weddings and receptions, dinner theaters, charity pub nights with live entertainment, holiday dinners and other special or corporate events.

Cheran notes in the letter that the center's website, a flier and a press release list past and future activities, which had from eight to 400 guests at any given event.

Records show the county has issued no certificate of occupancy for the activities, Cheran states.

A hair salon not proffered to operate on the site and a non-monument-type business sign, for which the county has no record of a building permit, also violate the conditions, according to Cheran.

The owners can resolve the violations by amending the proffers in the rezoning to allow for additional uses on the properties, Cheran notes in the letter. The official states that failing to comply with the county code would result in a criminal complaint against the owners.

The Board of Zoning Appeals disagreed with Cheran and, on Nov. 16, reversed his decision on the basis that the commercial activities cited in his notice fell under the proffered "public buildings" use, according to the petition.

"The BZA was plainly wrong in its interpretation of the Frederick County zoning ordinance, and erred in its decision," the petition states.

The petition names Greig D.W. Aitken and Tonie M. Wallace Aitken as owners of the two parcels, spread over 232 acres, in the Stonewall Magisterial District.

Winchester attorney Robert T. Mitchell Jr. and County Attorney Roderick B. "Rod" Williams are serving as co-counsel for the Board of Supervisors, the petition states.

Reached by phone Friday evening, Greig Aitken noted that Historic Jordan Springs has played host to weddings for several years in the time they have owned the site and as early as the 1830s.

Aitken said he had not yet seen the petition but the county's action did not surprise him.
He declined to comment further and instead referred additional questions to the owners' attorney, Stephen L. Pettler Jr.

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