Virginia Beach City Council again puts off vote on new Airbnb rules

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s become cliche but true, there is nothing short about short-term rentals.

Early Wednesday morning, Virginia Beach City Council voted unanimously to table the majority of its latest proposal to regulate property owners who rent out their properties for less than 30-days using platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. It’s the second time in a month they have put off a decision.

A work session back in June was meant to bring together council members behind one plan. However after two hours of public comment Tuesday, it was clear common ground was far from present.

In a tourist town like Virginia Beach, many homeowners have rented their properties to vacationers for years. However, those owning homes in coastal communities and not interested in renting have complained that the constant flow of strangers coming and going is not only disruptive but dangerous. 

The new rules were first proposed last September in an effort to allow short-term rentals (STRs) to operate in areas where vacation rentals have traditionally been operating without City Council approval. Often council meetings have been stretching late into the night — even into the next day on one occasion — as rules require any property owners looking to operate a short-term rental outside of Sandbridge to get approval through what is known as a conditional use permit (CUP).

What ended up being in the ordinance City Council considered would keep in place the requirement that council approve every single STR application and additional rules for the city to enforce.

Anyone looking to start operating a STR would only be allowed to do so if they have property in Sandbridge, or within specific boundaries at the Oceanfront or North End. The boundaries are referred to as “overlay” districts.

Many have called the process unequitable and said it punishes responsible rental owners who aren’t trying to skirt the law and operate illegally.

Several city council members agreed.

“I was certainly hoping we were going to have something I could vote for,” said Councilwoman Barbara Henley. “We have treated people differently. We deny one and approve another on the same street because ‘this guy looks like he’ll do a good job’.”

City Council ultimatley voted to scrap their plan for automatic overlays altogether before tabling everything else.

Instead, some showed support for requiring 75% of neighbors to petition the City Council for overlays before they would be granted.

The issue will be taken up again on July 13.

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