Developers withdraw request to turn house into events center

Business partners likely won’t try to turn a historic house in Warren County into an events center after neighbors complained.

Ben McMahon and Josh Petersen have withdrawn an application to request changes to the county code that would add “agricultural events center” to the allowed uses on certain property. They also withdrew their application for a conditional-use permit that would allow them to operate such an events center at 4918-4920 Strasburg Road (Va. 55), also known as the Mint House.

McMahon and Petersen withdrew the applications Wednesday via a letter to the Planning and Zoning Department, county Planning Director Taryn Logan advised Thursday. The Board of Supervisors had scheduled public hearings on both requests for Tuesday. The board will have to decide whether or not to remove the public hearings from the meeting agenda.

More information on why McMahon and Petersen withdrew the applications were not available Friday. McMahon did not give specific reasons for the withdrawal. McMahon thanked Logan for helping him and Petersen through the process. McMahon did not respond to a call or email for comment Friday.

The withdrawal of the requests puts the use of the site in question. County Planner Matt Wendling explained in general terms that the zoning ordinance allows but also limits the number of homes on agricultural property. The owners could try to rezone the property to residential, which would open up more development opportunities, but Wendling noted the county Comprehensive Plan recommends the land remain in the agricultural district.

McMahon and Petersen also applied for a permit to use the property as a short-term tourist rental. The status of that application remains uncertain. The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to table the permit application after holding a public hearing on the request on July 21. While the hearing pertained only to the short-term tourist rental permit, numerous adjacent property owners used the occasion to speak against the applicants’ pursuit of the agricultural events center.

The board tabled the request for the rental permit primarily so the applicant and county staff could work with the Department of Health and the Department of Transportation to address concerns raised about the well and septic system for the property and access to the site off the state highway.

Several of the neighbors who said they opposed the proposed use questioned the fact that neither McMahon nor Petersen appeared to own the property. Stephen James Lee is listed as the owner of the property. However, as the applicants explained, they are part of a group of people who invested in the property. In many cases, when a group of investors buy property, only one individual signs off as the owner.

Lee and partners bought the 40-acre property from the Rooney family for $625,000 on April 13, according to county real estate records.

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