Owners seek to rent historic house to tourists

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County might expand areas where some property owners can rent houses to tourists.

Gregory and Mary Huson recently applied for a conditional-use permit to rent their property at 4022 Rockland Road, known as Clover Hill Farms, to tourists. The Husons also want to rent out the property for weddings and other events.

The 72.6-acre property lies in the Shenandoah magisterial district, adjacent to homes in the Taliaferro Manor and Shenandoah Golf Club subdivisions and land zoned for agricultural use. The county describes short-term tourist rentals as dwellings rented for less than 30 days.

However, the Husons’ property is zoned rural residential. The county zoning ordinance does not allow short-term tourist rentals in the rural residential district so the Husons submitted an application seeking to amend the zoning ordinance that would add short-term tourist rentals to the uses allowed in the rural residential district with a conditional-use permit.

Areas in the rural residential district include the Freezeland Manor subdivision and Clover Hill Farms.

The Planning Commission discussed the Husons’ requests at its meeting Wednesday before authorizing the Planning and Zoning Department to advertise the matters for public hearings.

The Husons, who live in a house on an adjacent property at 62 Ashby Lane, bought the property in 2014. They plan to renovate Clover Hill Farms and would like to market the dwelling as a short-term tourist rental.

Gregory Huson spoke briefly Thursday about their intentions.

“It’s a historic property in a historic district,” he said. “It was marked for development several years ago before the housing market collapsed and my wife and I bought it … We just wanted to try to fix up and preserve the old house. It’s got a rich history.”

The house needed work, Gregory Huson explained. The owners replaced the roof and drains and removed trees near the house.

“When we bought the property it was in a total state of disrepair,” he added. “Nobody had lived in the house for over 20 years so we had a lot of initial work. We’ve done a lot of repairs to the house and we’re trying to find a use for the property where people could come and see it and enjoy it.”

The two-story house has four to five bedrooms and two large rooms with tall ceilings in the front, Gregory Huson said. Information provided to the National Park Service in support of the creation of the Rockland Rural Historic District mentions Clover Hill Farms prominently, he added.

The previous owner had the property rezoned to rural residential in 2006 to allow for a 12-lot cluster subdivision but did not plat the subdivision and sold the property to the Husons.

The ordinance that allows short-term tourist rentals with a conditional-use permit in agricultural and residential zoning districts also includes supplemental regulations such as limitations on occupancy, parking accommodations and the requirement that owners submit a management plan. Regulations also limit the number of occupants to 12. A new septic system installed on the property limits the number of occupants to six.

The supplemental regulations also require that the property or homeowners association submit input on the request should the dwelling lie in a subdivision governed by such organization. The Husons’ site does not lie in such an area.

The Husons submitted a statement of justification for their requests to the county department dated Sept. 30. The property also lies in the Rockland Rural Historic District.

“The property is rich with historical significant (sic) to the region and the intent is to allow for public use,” the statement notes.

The Husons advised that they intend to renovate the historic house for short-term tourist rentals. They want to make the house and grounds available for weddings, family reunions, meetings, training classes and other events. They anticipate no more than 15 larger outdoor events from April through October, and up to 30 indoor meetings or classes throughout the year. They also would provide tents and temporary restrooms for larger outdoor events with the maximum number of guests limited to 150. The venue would include space for parking near the farmhouse and in an adjacent field.

Information provided by the Husons indicates the existing farmstead remains one of a few surviving early 19th century brick houses in the historic district. The original two-story long home, built in 1781, was expanded in the 1820s with a Federal-style brick addition. A Queen Anne-style addition was constructed later, the statement notes.

The Husons also traced the property’s ownership from the 1820s through 2014 when the couple bought the site from French Tolliver Sr.’s heirs. The Husons have worked to clear the overgrown land, renovate the farmhouse and raise cattle.  They developed a commercial hops field and sell the crop to a local bewery, Gregory Huson said.

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