VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Sandbridge Beach Civic League has voted no confidence in their councilwomen, Barbara Henley, pointing to her actions in the ongoing debate over short term rental properties.
The motion calling out Henley, who represents the Sandbridge area, was approved at the civic league’s meeting Monday. The next day, City Council unanimously voted to move forward with new proposed regulations on short term rentals.
The civic league wrote they no longer have confidence in the representation and actions of Henley to fairly representing the concerns of the majority of their members. Specifically, members are upset in her involvement in creating new short term rental regulations in the city.
“Henley has attempted to use her influence with City Council, to over regulate short term rentals against the desires of both the SBCL and the Sandbridge Beach Business Association,” the motion read. “It has been demonstrated that rules and regulations proposed by Henley would have a dire and adverse impact to the Sandbridge economy, affecting jobs and real estate value.”
The final straw, according to Elaine Fekete, a member of the civic league who rents her property, was when Henley encouraged to city council members to move forward with universal regulations, that would treat every property in the city the same.
Among the proposed citywide regulations are stipulations that short term rental’s shall have no more than one rental contract during any consecutive seven day period; no more than two people per bedroom (plus four more) per night; and a logbook of all guests must be presented upon city request.
“For me and for many others this is how we are surviving in this city,” Elaine Fekete said in front of council Tuesday. “Reducing the amount of occupants we can have per rental and the number of contracts we can have per week is a significant financial hit.”
Intentions were made clear to city council members that Sandbridge should be subject to a short term rental overlay district that would alter some regulations, according to Fekete. However at a recent council work session, Henley indicated she wanted to move on without it for the time being.
City Council has been debating the regulations on short term rentals since 2016, when a ODU Student was shot dead during a party at an AirBNB in Virginia Beach.
Around the same time, a group calling themselves “Protect Virginia Beach Neighborhoods,” began advocating for stronger regulations. “We want to protect VB’s residents from the negative side effects of short-term rentals” the group said on its Facebook page.
Civic league members accuse Henley of only listening to that group’s concerns.
“When concerns was raised on the economic impact this would have on people’s lives,
Henley responded ‘The City didn’t ask you to rent your property’,” the civic league motion said about one of their meetings with the councilwoman. “She stated that property owners had been operating illegally for the past 65 years and that was going to stop.”
Henley declined 10 On Your Side’s request for an interview Tuesday night, saying she was not aware of the civic league’s action.
Henley has represented the Princess Anne district of Virginia Beach, which includes Sandbridge, since 2006. She is running for reelection and faces opponents Tim Worst, Karen Kwasny and Pieri Evan Burton.
The new proposals will now go onto the planning commission before being sent back to city council.