Board tables rental request for Mint House

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders delayed action Tuesday on a tourist-rental permit request amid neighbors’ opposition.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to table the matter for 60 days to allow the applicants to address concerns raised by both adjacent property owners and government agencies.

Benjamin McMahon, one of the owners of the historic Mint House on Va. 55 (Strasburg Road), sought a conditional-use permit to run a short-term tourist rental out of the property. The board plans to take up a separate request for a permit to use the property as an agricultural events center at a future meeting.

The Planning Commission has endorsed the proposed use for the property and recommended the board approve the permit request.

More than a dozen people spoke during the public hearing on the rental permit though most made general comments about both requests. Neighbors of the Mint House made up most of the opposition while friends and relatives of the applicants who don’t live near the property spoke in support of the business venture.

Aside from the concerns of the neighbors, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Department of Health and the county Department of Planning and Zoning have raised issues with the proposed uses of the property. Planner Matt Wendling advised the board that VDOT has said the property owners need to make safety improvements to the entrance off Strasburg Road. The Department of Health has said the owners might need to replace the aging septic system and have the well checked.

Staff also alerted the board that the owners had allowed weddings to take place on the property without prior approval. The county issued a cease-and-desist letter to the owners ordering them to stop hosting events on their property and to take down any advertisements for such gatherings until they receive the necessary permits.

McMahon’s business partner Josh Peterson said weddings were held on the property without permits but explained that these were events put on by friends. The business has since canceled other scheduled weddings and events and its website says “coming soon.”

The board also heard from neighbors who claimed they heard guns fired by people on the property. In one instance, a visitor to the property shot a bird that one speaker said is protected wildlife. Peterson apologized for the visitors’ actions and noted that, as new owners, he and McMahon continue to deal with people coming on to the property without permission.

After hearing from speakers, several supervisors voiced concerns with the permit request. At one point a majority of the supervisors sounded ready to vote to deny the permit request. Chairman Richard Traczyk suggested that that board table the request, given the remaining, outstanding issues some departments have with the proposed use, and that residents raised concerns about the venture.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com