The Warren County Board of Supervisors denied a request Tuesday by property owners for a permit to rent a home to tourists.
The board voted 3-1 to deny a conditional-use permit for a short-term tourist rental after hearing concerns from neighbors. Vice Chairwoman Cheryl L. Cullers made the motion to deny the permit request. Cullers represents the South River Magisterial District. Chairman Walter J. Mabe, Shenandoah District, as well as Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox and Cullers voted in favor of the motion. North River District Supervisor Delores Oates voted against the motion. Happy Creek District Supervisor Tony Carter did not attend the meeting.
Mario and Wendy Loundermon applied for a conditional-use permit to operate their property at 200 Valley Retreat Road in the Panhandle Valley Retreat subdivision. Valley Retreat Road is a half-mile-long gravel lane that County Planner and Floodplain Manager Matt Wendling said is informally maintained by residents. The county has issued no other permits for short-term tourist rentals in the subdivision, he noted.
The county has received comments from neighbors of the property who voiced concerns about privacy and security, Wendling said. The Planning Commission endorsed the permit request after holding a public hearing, during which residents spoke of their concerns. Wendling said one person spoke in favor of the permit request. The county received more comments after the hearing. The applicants submitted information about how they would address trespassing concerns, Wendling said.
The Loundermons, who live in Catharpin, Prince William County, bought the property in March as a second home. They plan to market the property online and serve as the managers for the rental, according to county information.
The owners plan to use the property for outdoor recreation since it lies on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Use of the property as a short-term tourist rental would allow them to offset the maintenance costs, mortgage and property taxes, according to county information and the Loundermons.
The property lies adjacent to the first house in the gated community and before vacant parcels. The applicants met with neighbors to address this matter and have indicated they may use a combination lock daisy-chained with other padlocks as a resolution, county officials have said.
The county’s Future Land Use Map identifies the area as recommended for residential use with short-term tourist rentals allowed with a conditional-use permit.
The Warren County Health Department would allow no more than six people at a time to stay in the three-bedroom house.
Mario Loundermon spoke before the public hearing and told the board he revised his plan for the proposed rental after talking to neighbors and listening to their concerns.
“Unfortunately, I can’t address their concerns 100%, but I think I’ve done my due diligence,” he said.
At the public hearing, Kyle Kusmick, of 16 Valley Retreat Road, said he shared concerns of many of his neighbors. The subdivision has existed for about 40 years and he has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years, Kusmick said. He called the rental a hotel, which he said could bring 300 people a year, coming and going as they please, and residents would have no input. Kusmick said he and many of his neighbors feel the use of the property as a rental would change the community's character.
“Given our history of crime, theft in the neighborhood that we’ve had to work together on, none of us wants that stress and that security issue in our neighborhood,” Kusmick said. “This is a 24-7 business that he’s not on-site to manage. That means we act as default property managers.”
Even with a local emergency contact person on call to attend to the property, Kusmick said the neighborhood has no cell phone service.
Other residents and property owners who do not live in the subdivision voiced concerns about flooding, safety and security.
Mario Loundermon spoke in response to the concerns raised at the hearing. He called some of the concerns negative speculation.
“It’s really seeing the worst in us,” he said.
In response to supervisors’ questions, he said he plans to work with a local company to provide 24-7 management of the property. He would add a third lock to the gate with a combination he would change after each rental. He also has an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency. He also installed a landline as a remedy to the lack of cellphone service.
Board Chairman Walter J. Mabe and members Cheryl Cullers, Archie Fox and Delores Oates attended the meeting. Tony Carter did not attend.