Tourist home proposal draws support, raises eyebrows

Owners Steve Ray and Andrea Wooten are seeking a special use permit to rent their home at 418 Mount Salem Ave. as a tourist home.

Steve Ray and Andrea Wooten have found themselves in the position of a lot of folks trying to sell a home. It’s just not happening right now in the current economic climate.

Desiring to move out of their home at 418 Mount Salem Ave. in Washington but not wanting to leave it vacant or renting it long term, they came up with the idea of renting it out as a “tourist home” on a nightly or weekly basis.

For that, however, they need a special use permit, which is why they were before the Washington town council on Monday seeking approval.

Opinions both for and against the application were expressed, and town council ultimately tabled the matter but resolved to vote on the application at its next meeting on Sept. 13.

“I thought things went well. Council was very thoughtful, I’m optimistic they will approve our application,” Ray said at the conclusion of the meeting.

A decision in September should give the couple sufficient time to advertise their tourist home venture in time to capitalize on the fall season.

The couple wants to move into their new home on a farm outside Sperryville and are hoping to rent the Washington residence as a tourist home if the property doesn’t sell by early fall.

The property is listed with Country Places Realty of Washington and has an asking price of $625,000, according to an advertising flier provided by Denise Chandler, the couple’s Realtor.

In opening the hearing, Mayor John Fox Sullivan noted that “in the spirit of openness and transparency . . . four members on town council have hospitality ventures. It’s a fact of life.” He said he had checked with legal counsel to see if that fact posed a conflict of interest and was told it did not.

Sullivan said later he is one of the four he was referring to in addition to Patrick O’Connell, Mary Ann Kuhn and Gary Schwartz.

Zoning Administrator John W. McCarthy said town council can impose conditions in granting a special use permit.

Sullivan summed up the issues that he thinks “it will be easy to come together on”: setting a time limit on the special use, making it non-transferable, limiting the number of cars and people, and going forward with it as “an experiment” to see what can be learned from it.

In other matters before council, Gary Schwartz reported that “most everybody is hooked up” to the town’s new sewage system. There have been 107 connections made, and some went online as recently as last Friday. There’s been no action to do so by six to nine property owners and Schwartz suggested sending a letter to those parties.

Septic tanks must be abandoned when hookups are made to the sewer system. That process is slower. Seventeen septic tanks have been abandoned, “and there’s only 80 to 90 to go,” Schwartz said.

He explained that a permit application to abandon a septic system needs to be secured from the health department.
Council also decided to hold a joint public hearing with the town planning commission on Sept. 13 on an amendment to the historic district ordinance.

Council agreed to become a member of the Rappahannock Hospitality and Visitors Association for annual dues of $125, which will ensure the town gets more prominent play in the tourism brochure the association prints.

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About James Ivancic 67 Articles
James Ivancic is a reporter for the Fauquier Times in Warrenton, Va. Contact him at jivancic@fauquier.com.