VB Council again looking to alter short-term rental rules after influx of applicants

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Three months after rules regulating short-term rentals went into effect, Virginia Beach City Council is considering making changes.

Tuesday night, 24 new properties went before council to seek approval to participate in home-sharing — such as Airbnb and Vrbo — in the resort city. While all were approved, with a majority of the homes located in the Beach district, there was much concern among council members in doing so.

“I think the neighborhoods are the real strength of Virginia Beach,” said Councilman Guy Tower, Beach District. “I am concerned about them.”

Specifically, Tower is concerned too many short-term rentals will change the dynamic of communities.

Virginia Beach City Council approved the rules regulating short-term rentals in January 2019, after years of debate.

Short-term rentals, defined as “dwellings” in which rooms or the entire unit is rented for fewer than 30 days, now have to be registered with the city to operate legally. They are required to pay city and state taxes just like hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts.

Property owners who operate them say it is a great way to make extra income and bring families to the area that may not otherwise be able to afford a hotel.

However, since 2015, opposition to the business idea has said the constant flow of strangers coming and going in their neighborhood is disruptive. 

Rules state a short-term rental must have one off-street parking space per bedroom, no more than two rental groups in the home per week and no more than three people per bedroom in the home overnight, among other requirements

One of those requirements would have allowed for up to three special events each year at each approved home, with 50-100 people at the event.

Tower said the requirement, believed to have been added in for the larger Sandbridge properties, would not work in the “Old Beach” neighborhood at the Oceanfront where streets are narrow and parking is more limited.

On Tuesday, council removed the ability to host special events at the new short-term rentals altogether. Instead, visitors on a property operating as a short-term rental would be limited to the same amount permitted overnight.

Every applicant said they were happy to comply with the changes.

However, what happens going forward is up in the air, with council members expressing the need to possibly limit the number of short-term rental properties per neighborhood.

“We are putting voids in the vibrancy of having neighbors, and the pleasure of having neighbors and having families,” Councilman Michael Berlucchi, who represents the Rose Hall district. “I think we need to review the ordinance with a quickness.”

Several neighbors, however, told council they feel the presence of short-term rentals has made their community better.

“The removal of the older homes and buildings that were problematic have been replaced with beautiful homes … professionally maintained,” said Frank Rameakers, who lives in Virginia Beach.

Berlucchi acknowledged there were positives to the business. But agrees with Tower that the number of rentals permitted should be limited. There were already 1,650 units grandfathered under the council ordinance passed last year.

“Now that we know that, I think we ought to look at it,” Tower said.

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