Planners back retreat permit over property line issue

FRONT ROYAL – The Warren County Planning Commission backed a request Wednesday to run a retreat center despite concerns over property lines.

Deborah Koh and Younwoo “Young” Kim requested a conditional-use permit to operate a retreat center at 114 Paps Way in the Linden area. The 10-acre property in the Partlowe subdivision, in the Happy Creek magisterial district, is zoned for agricultural use. Paps Way is a private road.

The county zoning ordinance allows retreat centers in the agricultural district with an approved conditional-use permit. The commission held a public hearing on the permit request and heard from three neighbors of the applicants.

Falls Church resident Patrick Fleming, who owns a home near the applicants, said concerns about property lines arose recently. Charles Powell, who lives on Paps Way, concurred with Fleming and asked the commission to delay action on the permit request until the neighbors resolve the property line matter. Robert Metcalf lives on Grassland Road and voiced concerns about the traffic that a retreat might attract, noting that vehicles would need to travel up the steep drive to the property.

However, after hearing from the residents about the property line matter, the commission voted 4-0 to forward the request to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation that it approve the permit. Commissioner Lorraine Smelser did not attend the meeting. Commissioners commented that the property owners would need to resolve the boundary line matter themselves.

Should supervisors approve the permit request, the accessory structure would comply with the zoning ordinance as long as the applicants use it as a guesthouse, Planner Matt Wendling said. Otherwise the applicants would need to connect the structure to the home or remove the stove from the guesthouse kitchen, Wendling said. Building Official David Beahm has said the applicants need various permits for parts of the guesthouse that were not initially permitted, Wendling added.

Planning Department Director Taryn Logan said the applicants still need a permit because the retreat would be considered a business if they accept any money from anyone using the property for that purpose.

Planning Department staff recently cited the applicants for zoning violations related to advertising the property for short-term tourist rental and using a detached garage with an apartment as a guesthouse for temporary lodging.

The applicants intend to use the property to provide lodging for guests who seek a quiet and safe environment for rest, prayer and meditation, Christian counseling and one-on-one instruction, according to information from the county department. The applicants live on the property full time and plan to provide an option to eat breakfast or for guests to bring their own groceries. They plan to have individual and family religious counseling sessions by appointment.

The applicants submitted a revised statement of justification Feb. 3 that removed their desire to host a quarterly retreat and revival for members of their church, limited to 30 people during the day for no more than four weekends per year.

The revised statement indicates the applicants plan to host one or two families per month during the summer, specifically relatives, friends, church members or acquaintances through their church. The applicants do not intend to advertise on any of the short-term tourist rental websites or to operate as a for-profit business. Rather, they plan to ask for a free-will offering from the users to cover their costs as a ministry.

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