‘We’re getting close’: Virginia Beach City Council defers vote on new short-term rental rules

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — New rules regulating short-term rentals could now be enacted in early July after City Council put off a vote on the controversial subject Tuesday night.

Council members instead unanimously decided to meet again on June 22 to work through the details of their latest proposal before once again considering the plan for a vote July 6.

While the decision was met with some groans from the more than 50 people who spoke out on the issue Tuesday — realizing they would have to come back for another lengthy meeting — upon leaving, many said they could live with it.

“Would I have liked to see it voted on tonight, yes,” said Larry Horvath, a board member of the Baylake Pines Civic League who is opposed to any further expansion of short-term rentals. “But in this case we still have something in place.”

The topic of short-term rentals has been an ever growing lightning rod since 2015.

Officially defined as a home rental for less than 30 days, their use has exploded in recent years with the help of websites like Airbnb and Vrbo.

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.  

In 2018, City Council regulated short-term rentals by requiring them to register with the city and obtain a conditional use permit to operate.

However when the process to individually approve each application began to take City Council hours, Vice Mayor Jim Wood and council members Louis Jones and Guy Tower put forward the current proposal that would ban short-term rentals outside of areas where vacation rentals historically are placed.

Those who operate short-term rentals, or STRs for short, continued to push back on the proposal Tuesday night.

“I know we are all tired of talking about STRs, but what you are proposing tonight is not the answer,” said Elaine Fekete, a member of the Virginia Beach Short-Term Rental Alliance (VBSTRA.)

Members have called the process unequitable and said it punishes responsible rental owners.

They are calling for stronger enforcement of existing rules.

Councilman John Moss called it a property rights issue.

“There is a group that wants to expand property rights under the existing zoning ordinances and there are people that want us to honor their vested rights for the zoning ordinances that are in place across the city … that says STRs are not a vested right,” Moss said.

Wood said he feels the council is “pretty darn close” and feels a compromise can be struck.

“I think it’s going to take us a little more time … We have certainly done our best. It might not have been the outcome that everybody wanted, but it’s not for the lack of us trying,” Wood said.

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