Five tourist homes okayed by zoning board

The Rappahannock County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) approved special-use permits for five new tourist homes at its meeting last Wednesday night (Oct. 24), including four that Lorin and Dietlinde Maazel of Castleton Farms hope to rent during the many months between their annual summer music festival.

The Maazels, represented at the hearing by their attorney Doug Baumgardner, sought four special-use permits, one for each of their properties, to convert the usually vacant properties into tourist homes.

Dietlinde Maazel told the board that she and her husband own the surrounding properties, which minimizes the impact of guests on any neighbors. Furthermore, she said, the Maazels already allow guests to stay at their homes (free of charge) during the Castleton music festival; the idea of tourist homes represented an expansion of that practice.

“We already house festival participants [in June and July], which means we can’t rent the houses year-round,” said Maazel. “It just seemed like a good idea to marry the performance aspects with the empty houses.”

Maazel also said the they intended to screen their guests before renting to them, ensuring that all potential renters are responsible. She said several full-time employees – who would live in the family house close to the tourist homes – would be hired to help accommodate the guests.

“One goal in Rappahannock County is tourism,” Baumgardner told the board members. “These tourist homes, along with the the Castleton Festival, help emphasize that.”

Board members thanked Baumgardner and Maazel for a “well-presented” package of information on the tourist homes before conducting a separate vote for each permit, each of which passed unanimously, 5-0. No further approval of any special-use permit is needed. 

Thorne and Barbara Auchter also came before the board seeking a special-use permit to turn their four-bedroom, 21-acre Gid Brown Hollow property into a tourist home for 10 to 12 people. Barbara Auchter told the board members the home would be a year-round weekend venture, and that it was ready to open immediately.

Carolyn Beahm, a neighbor of the Auchters, said she wasn’t opposed to idea of a tourist home, but did have some concerns. Beahm said she worried that noise and lights – both from incoming traffic and from the home itself – could become disruptive.

“I have calves, and I do astronomy and meditation out here,” said Beahm. “I’m used to the peace and quiet.”

Board member Jennifer Matthews asked Auchter about the distance between the two properties, as well as the possible impact of the lights. Auchter said the Beahm house cannot be seen from her property and that there was a row of trees between the houses which could, and does, act as a shield. Based on what others have told her about tourist homes, she added, renting the property to a party of 10 or 12 would likely be rare.

Board member Christopher Bird said that while he understood Beahm’s concerns, he believed she was being “a bit alarmist.”

“The difference between a tourist home and and a residence is negligible in this case,” Bird said. “You could already be living next to a family of 10 or 12 [instead of the Auchters] . . . and I don’t think this is going to remarkably change things. This is their home; they wouldn’t want to rent it out to Hell’s Angels.”

Alex Sharp said he believed the board should attach a review period to the permit, believing this would give the Auchters a chance to see if they even wanted to continue as a tourist home, and give Beahm another chance to let the board know of any other concerns or potential problems.

The board ultimately attached a three-year review to the permit and approved it unanimously.