Concerns remain over Mint House use

FRONT ROYAL – The future of the historic Mint House in Warren County remains uncertain as the developers consider how to use the property.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday pulled the previously scheduled public hearings for two requests related to using the Mint House as an events center. Neighbors of the property on Strasburg Road near Waterlick voiced opposition to the proposed use and petitioned the board to deny the owners’ requests.

Benjamin McMahon withdrew his request for a change in the county code to add “agricultural events center” to the list of uses allowable on the Mint House property. McMahon also withdrew his request for a permit that would let the owners use the property for events.

McMahon didn’t give a reason in his letter to the Planning Department as to why he wanted to withdraw the requests. McMahon stated in an email Tuesday that “The only comment (that) I have at this time is that we are working with the board of supervisors on the best use of the property at this time. It’s important that we work with the county and make our decisions based on the county comprehensive plan.”

Hugh Fesperman, of Richardson Road, lives near the Mint House. During the public comment portion of the meeting, Fesperman presented the board with more signatures of residents concerned with the proposed use, this time from people living in other areas of the county. People to whom he spoke did not know about the proposed zoning changes, Fesperman said.

A request by the owners for a permit that would allow them to rent the property to tourists on a short-term basis remains on hold as the applicants and the county work with state transportation and health officials on concerns raised at a previous meeting on the proposed use. The board voted unanimously at that meeting to delay action on the request for 60 days.

While not opposed to the request for the rental permit, Fesperman said it appeared the applicants didn’t go through the usual process.

“Some of us feel that the request for the short-term rental or the zoning amendment … shouldn’t have made it because there’s no application on file for these requests,” Fesperman said.

The only application on file with the Planning Department, dated 16 months ago, indicated the intent to use the property for private events, Fesperman said.

Fesperman noted “the proper procedure should be followed as misinformation leads to wrong decisions.”

No one from the Planning Department was asked to respond to Fesperman’s claims.

Vice Chairwoman Linda Glavis asked if the board could go ahead and take action on the request for the short-term tourist rental permit at its next meeting Sept. 1, even though they had tabled the matter for 60 days. Chairman Richard Traczyk said he supported Glavis’ request.

Assistant County Attorney Dan Whitten explained Wednesday that the board will likely entertain a motion at its Sept. 1 meeting to reconsider its motion to table McMahon’s request for the short-term tourist rental permit. The board then can consider the permit request as an old business item during the meeting. Members of the public can speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.

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