County OKs more tourist rental rules

FRONT ROYAL — Some Warren County homeowners say new rules for tourist rentals don’t go far enough.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on Tuesday to approve changes to the ordinance that allows short-term tourist rentals in the county. A couple of supervisors said they reluctantly supported the changes as recommended by the Planning Commission and county staff. Supervisors did reduce the maximum number of occupants allowed by a permit from 12 as recommended by the commission to 10.

The county allows short-term tourist rentals with an approved conditional-use permit. Supervisors have the authority to grant or deny a permit request. The county also can revoke a permit if the holder violates any of the conditions.

Supervisor Richard Traczyk requested earlier this summer that the Planning Department and the commission revisit the ordinance, as the county received numerous permit requests that attracted controversy and opposition by property owners associations.

“I’m still not happy with all the recommendations … ,” Traczyk said. “I think we could be a little stronger on [the rules]. I like the subdivisions’, POAs’ say so in the process. I think that’s a good indication and, for me, as I’m on this board, it’ll hold a lot of weight, as to what the neighbors think and what the POA has to say about that particular [permit].”

Supervisor Linda Glavis pointed out that the board reviews each permit request in relation to the neighboring properties and the community in general. The revised ordinance gives the board a better tool to use when reviewing the permits, Glavis said.

Supervisor Tony Carter echoed Traczyk’s sentiment about the additional rules.

“I guess I’ll support it just because I don’t think there’s much other alternatives, but I think we’re also taking these on a case-by-case basis,” Carter said.

Most of the residents who spoke during the public hearing held Tuesday on the ordinance changes said they had concerns about the strength of the regulations, the limit on the number of people staying at the rentals and how the county would define “local point of contact” in case of emergencies.

Planning Director Taryn Logan explained that the Virginia Department of Health calculates the occupancy limit as two people per allowable bedroom as determined by the septic system capacity. Occupancy cannot exceed the amount permitted by the health department regardless of the county’s limit.

Concerns also were raised that the required 100-foot setback between a rental and any other home would not suffice. Other homeowners said they wondered if the county would monitor rental use or if that responsibility falls to the neighbors.

Opponents of the rental uses sought an outright ban on such businesses in gated communities. The regulations do not impose such a restriction.

A Nov. 12 letter from Wes Gillespie, acting president of the board of directors of the High Knob Owners Association, indicates that members took exception to some of the changes. Among the concerns, the association requested that the county increase required distance between a rental and other homes from 100 feet to 300 feet.

Under the new rules, the county will require a conditional-use permit for all short-term tourist rentals in residential or agricultural zones regardless of lot size. The new rules also require that a homeowners or property owners association provide input on a permit application and a recommendation on the request should the lot lie in a neighborhood served by such an organization. Owners must provide a property management plan and local points of contact to handle emergencies.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com