The Warren County Planning Commission held a business session followed by a surprisingly quiet regular meeting on June 8e. The absence of former commissioner Joe Longo, who resigned abruptly this week following a lingering dispute between the County Board of Supervisors and the landowners of Shenandoah Farms, LLC (POSF) – You should read that Royal Examiner story here.
During their working session, commissioners discussed ongoing work on rewriting the county’s comprehensive plan and focused on Chapter 7, Infrastructure. The county’s predominantly rural setting means that much of the water and sewage facilities are private well and septic systems. Public access to water and sewer exists primarily in the northern corridor of Route 522 under an agreement with the Town of Front Royal, and in a few county subdivisions.
Several commissioners mentioned that there had been conversations in previous years about negotiating a deal with Frederick County for access to their water system, which draws water from quarry reservoirs near from Stephens City, and some indirectly from the Shenandoah River via the Winchester City system. Vice President Hugh Henry said, “Maybe Warren County should get into the water business.” With the possibility of supplying larger water users to the county, such as data centers – does this sound familiar? – The county will have to determine who will pay for the infrastructure to support them.
All of these informal discussions are intended to inform the county’s potential goals for the comprehensive plan update. The Commission plans to continue its rewriting work over the coming months.
The regular committee meeting immediately after the working session had a packed agenda, with four conditional use permit (CUP) applications for short-term tourist rentals, and one for each bed and breakfast, private campsite , guest house and a church.
Ferhan Ture applied for a CUP for a short-term tourist rental for his property at 959 Thunder Road in the Fork District. The property is zoned Agricultural. Applicants use this property as their primary residence and will oversee rentals in person. The commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the permit.
Douglas and Christina Alley are applying for a conditional use permit for private use camping for their land along the river in the Mandalay Subdivision on Burma Drive. The mostly wooded property is in the special flood zone. The conditional use permit would allow applicants to erect an accessory structure for the storage of recreational equipment not exceeding 200 square feet upon issuance of a building permit. There were no public objections to the request, and the commission voted unanimously to recommend approval.
Seung Wan “Brian” Suh applies for a conditional use permit for a bed and breakfast. The property is located at 198 Ashland Court, an agricultural zoned property in the Happy Creek District. The applicant and his wife reside on the property and will be the innkeepers of the B&B. The plaintiffs had previously applied for a short-term tourist rental CUP, but withdrew it over concerns expressed by neighbors about guests being on site without the owners present. There were no objections at this public hearing and the commission voted unanimously to recommend approval.
Valley View Ventures, LLC (Brooklyn Steele) has applied for a CUP for the short-term tourist rental of a property located at 4315 Rivermont Drive in the South River District. The only neighbors of the property are also the owners of the requesting property. No citizen objections were raised during the public hearing and the commission voted unanimously to recommend approval.
Edward Perry is seeking a conditional use permit for a guest house on his 10-acre farmland property at 690 Comforter Lane in the North River District. The applicant plans to build a main house on the property and temporarily inhabit the studio-cabin until he receives a certificate of occupancy for the main house, then use it for friends and family during their visits. This CUP will require that the applicant is not permitted to rent the property and states that a condition will be placed on the deed each time the property is sold which also binds the new owner to the same limitation.
Hunter Hughes and Rinku Sinha have applied for a Conditional Use Permit for their residential property located at 289 Heim-Jones Road, Shenandoah Farms Subdivision, District of Shenandoah. The applicants will occupy the property as their main residence and will manage the rental themselves. The public hearing resulted in no public comment, and the commission voted unanimously to recommend approval.
James V. Elliot Jr. is applying for a conditional use permit for his property at 2633 Buck Mountain Road in the South River District. The property is zoned Agricultural. The applicant lives a few kilometers from the property and will manage the rental himself. Two speakers addressed the commission at the public hearing, Dave Scanlan and Phillip Vaught, and both speakers supported the application. The committee voted unanimously to recommend approval.
The Self-Realization Fellowship Church at 2660 John Marshall Highway is applying for a conditional church use permit. The property sits in the Happy Creek district on 527 acres of church-owned land that is mostly undeveloped woods. The Church currently meets in part of a residence occupied by the worship leader and two helpers on the property, and the intention is to provide a facility that will be handicapped accessible and separate from the residence but will provide the same accommodations. The applicants have stipulated that the installation is not intended to extend use or create new use. There were no speakers at the public hearing and the commission voted unanimously to recommend approval. All of the above permit applications will now be submitted to the County Board of Supervisors for final decision.
The commission then turned its attention to a proposed amendment to the County Zoning Ordinance, Chapter 180, to define and permit use by right of ownership in Light Industrial (LI) and Industrial (I) districts. This mirrors a similar proposal being considered by the town of Front Royal regarding data centres. President Myers opened the public session and there were two speakers.
The first, Darryl Merchant, as a private citizen and not as the chairman of the Planning Commission, pleaded for the commission to proceed with caution in granting a right of use rather than a permit. of conditional use. Data centers in particular can consume more resources than other industrial activities and they need to be properly planned, Merchant told the county planning commission.
This reporter – as a private citizen – referred commissioners to a Fauquier County report outlining a request by Amazon.com to locate a 33-acre data center outside of Warrenton, which will require approval from special use permit. According to this report, Fauquier County will not bear the cost of infrastructure upgrades to accommodate this data center, but Amazon will pay for them. After the public hearing closed, the commission discussed the provisions of the Ordinance Amendment and, with some uncertainty as to the language of the Ordinance, voted to defer a final vote on the Ordinance Amendment. until next month’s meeting.
The Commission then considered a second amendment to the ordinance that revises the floodplain recovery district to meet recommendations from FEMA and the Virginia Department of Conservation. This will allow the county to participate in FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program and earn credits in the Community Rating System. The Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of this amendment.
Finally, the Commission reviewed its consent program, which covers permission to advertise for public hearing a whopping seven new CUP applications for short-term tourist rentals (see below); a CUP for a cluster housing development by Larry Himelright; a pair of applications for a recreational facility at 19959 Fort Valley Road by Cole and Danielle Haase; and a CUP for a food processing facility at 426 Baugh Drive, by Shahi Foods.
- 499 Rome Beauty Drive, Linden, by Joseph Muniz
- 610 Joan’s Quadrangle Rd, Front Royal by Yulia Svetlichnaya
- 4359 Remount Rd. Front Royal, by Thomas Cho
- 298 World’s End Lane, Front Royal by Andrew Sickle
- 608 Venus Branch Road, Front Royal, by Jennifer Harp
- 938 Fechett Road Devant Royal, by John Clarke
There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the growth of short-term tourist rentals in the county. Hopefully the transitional occupancy tax that all renters will pay each month will help reduce everyone else’s taxes! Or is it a dream?