Board OKs protection for Mint House

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County has put another 40 acres of property into protection from future development.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on Tuesday to accept a deed of gift of easement from Stephen James Lee to place 39.8 acres known as the Mint House, along Strasburg Road, into a perpetual, open-space conservation easement. The county would hold the easement on the property that lies in the North River magisterial district.

Supervisors made no comments since they took the action in a block vote to approve multiple items on the meeting’s consent agenda.

The property lies close to the George Washington National Forest and is visible from ridge line trails on Massanutten Mountain, including Signal Knob. County documents note that the restriction on the property’s development and preservation of the open space on the site would enhance the conservation values protected by the National Forest, its scenic vistas and the economic benefits of tourism – all of which the county’s comprehensive plan lists as objectives.

The Mint House property adjoins Richardson Road, Buck Mills Road and Strasburg Road. The easement includes restrictions on residential, commercial and industrial development as well as the subdivision of the property.

The easement includes the following restrictions:

• A limit on the use of the property to agricultural and open space with no division rights

• One primary dwelling not exceeding 4,500 square feet of above-ground living space and a secondary dwelling not to exceed 2,500 square feet of above-ground living space

• Agricultural buildings allowed such as structures with a maximum of 4,500 square feet in ground area and facilities for the processing and sale of farm or forest products produced on the property not to exceed 2,500 square feet each or 4,500 square feet in total

• Private roads and access easements allowed

• Signs allowed in accordance with county code

• Alternative energy structures allowed

• Agricultural, equine activities and forestry activities, including farm winery, distillery or brewery allowed

• A 35-foot riparian buffer along the edge of the pond required

• The owner must dedicate a right-of-way to the county along the property’s frontage on Richardson Road and Bucks Mill Road and a drainage, grading and slope easement on the same roads.

The county code requires that a proposed easement score at least 15 points on the conservation easement ranking criteria for the Board of Supervisors to consider accepting the deed. The Mint House property received 15 points, two of which reflect the historic resources, one point for the wetland, three for the development rights given up by the owner and three for the site’s agricultural and forest land.

In recent years, business partners and the property owner tried unsuccessfully to win board approval to allow the Mint House to hold certain events and to operate as an agricultural events center. The county zoning ordinance still allows the owner to hold certain events on the property without a permit.