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Short-term tourist rental ordinance to be revamped

Zoning administrator had determined properties located in residential subdivisons were being leased to vacationers

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- A public hearing at Wednesday night's Warren County Planning Commission meeting, concerning short-term tourist rentals and supplementary regulations, has led to further amendments and an additional public hearing next month.

Last year, the Board of Zoning Appeals found that the zoning ordinance has little to say about short-term rentals. The zoning administrator had determined that eight properties in the county were being operated as "tourist homes ... being rented out in time intervals of less than 30 days and often on a nightly basis," according to a written explanation for the public hearing. The properties are located in residential subdivisions.

The Planning Commission was then assigned to review the ordinance and add necessary definitions and regulations regarding the short-term tourist rentals.

Amendments include: allowing the rentals after the owner acquires a conditional-use permit; allowing two people per bedroom in the dwelling, but not having that number exceed 12; prohibiting visible evidence of the conduct of such short-term rentals on the outside appearance of the property; and to require a fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in every dwelling.

Two citizens, with opposing views, spoke during the designated time.

Local attorney Daryl Funk spoke on behalf of two of his clients who are involved in an ongoing lawsuit concerning the rentals. He explained that his clients agreed with the zoning administrator that "these are not by-right uses, specifically in the Residential-1 zoning district."

Funk and his clients support approval of the ordinance amendment, but he requested that the maximum occupancy be lowered to eight people.

"We believe that's more consistent with a family vacation," he said. He cited traffic as a specific reason why 12 people seemed "excessive."

Bentonville resident Martha Buracker spoke about her experiences as an owner of a vacation rental property. She said after she and her husband invested money into building a house, the market began to fail, and they were going to lose the property.

"We decided to go the vacation rental route, and it has worked very well for us," Buracker said. She added that since 2008 when they began renting, they've only received one complaint from a neighbor of the house, and it was taken care of.

Buracker also described the tourism value of the rental homes.

"We provide a list [to renters] of all the shopping, recreation, dining ... everything there is to do in Warren County," she said.

Buracker said that she is fine with the safety regulations, but overall thinks the ordinance needs to be looked at further.

After discussion between commission members, the ordinance was not approved.

Instead, the members want additional amendments concerning the maximum occupancy issue, number of vehicles allowed per group of visitors, and frequency of septic system inspection.

A public hearing about the changes and ordinance should take place next month.

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