A proposal to build more than 40 homes on land in Warren County near Reliance could conflict with local development guidelines.

The Warren County Planning Commission intends to consider an application from Aaron Ritenour for a conditional-use permit for a cluster housing development. The development would be on 183.6 acres of land off Reliance Road and consist of 40 lots each smaller than 10 acres and an average of one acre, with six lots larger than 10 acres. The county zoning regulations allow for the property to consist of two-acre lots.

Commission members voted at their meeting Wednesday to authorize the county to advertise a public hearing on Ritenour’s request. Commissioners did not discuss the application after Planning Director Joe Petty presented his report on the application.

Ritenour filed the application on behalf of the developer identified as Royal Oak Estates LLC. Warren County land records show Royal Oak Estates owns three parcels. A 55.27-acre parcel fronts Reliance Road. A 103-acre parcel lies to the south and north of Interstate 66. A 20.91-acre parcel lies to the west of the larger parcel and north of the interstate. All parcels, zoned agriculture, lie adjacent to the Sly Fox Golf Club and Jackson’s Chase at Pine Hills subdivision.

The developer would keep at least 60 percent of the property, or approximately 110.16 acres, as open space or as a perpetual easement to preserve the agricultural and/or forestal uses and prevent further development, according to the application. The property owner would deed the easement to the county.

A new, dedicated street built to Virginia Department of Transportation standards for acceptance into the state road system would serve the lots within the development.

But the proposal may not fall in line with the goals of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which directs development to areas contiguous to Front Royal or villages served or will be served by public facilities such as water, sewer and roads. The land for the proposed development does not border Front Royal or the village of Reliance. The property will not be served by public utilities. The applicant has indicated that the development would be served by private wells and septic systems.

The Comprehensive Plan also directs the county to limit future suburban sprawl in rural or agricultural areas where adequate public facilities do not exist, such as the location for the proposed development.

County documents state that the proposed development is designed to preserve steep-slope areas with buffers along Molly Camel Run. The department recommends that the permit conditions include a requirement that the developer install stormwater runoff management per state and county regulations.

The Engineering Groupe Inc. explained in a Sept. 15 letter to the Planning Commission and the county Planning Department the reason for the permit request.

“By utilizing Cluster, we would reduce the minimum lot size to 1 (one) acre, which allows us to cluster the lots at the front of our site and save 60% of the site as Open Space,” the letter signed by Executive Vice President for Engineering Billy Flynn states. “It will also allow us to avoid an existing stream, Molly Camel Run, which bi-sects the property and steep slopes toward the rear of the property, closer to Interstate 66.

“Going conventional will likely require a stream crossing and disturb more acreage than a Cluster layout, including steep slopes,” the letter states. “Conventional will also require more linear feet of road to be publicly maintained.”

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com