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Home rentals to tourists may be on rise in Warren County

By Alex Bridges

Warren County could see a spike in the number of properties opened up to tourists in the coming weeks.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Wednesday on a conditional-use permit request required to run property at 176 Wealthy Road as a short-term tourist rental. Jon and Susan Fuller applied for the permit. The residentially zoned property is in the Apple Mountain Lake subdivision.

The county zoning ordinance allows for short-term tourist rentals in the R-1 residential district with an approved, conditional-use permit, regardless of the lot size. County regulations identify short-term rental properties as those rented out for up to 30 days. Zoning Administrator Erick Moore explained Monday that the county requires the permit for short-term rentals on properties of up to 5 acres zoned for agricultural use. The county does not require the permit for larger properties, only that the owner follows the local, supplemental regulations governing tourist rentals.

The Fullers live in Florida but bought the property in Linden as a future retirement home and as vacation spot for family who also live in the Washington, D.C.-area, according to a department staff report.

The Fullers, who bought the property in January, want to rent the property as a way to generate income. Use of homes for this purpose is popular in the county, Moore said, especially when the housing market crashed in recent years and owners found it difficult to sell their properties. In at least one case, an owner who moved out of the area but could not sell his home decided to rent out the house to tourists on a short-term basis, Moore said. Some owners switch between short- and long-term rentals, depending on the season.

But not all short-term tourist rentals in the county are being operated with the required permits. Often a complaint by a neighbor spurs a county investigation that usually leads to the owner seeking a permit. Moore said he received a letter from a resident in the High Knob subdivision who advised the department that there were three short-term tourist rentals in the neighborhood. Part of the problem is merely informing the public of the rules and their options.

"I like to get the word out that if people are contemplating doing this or are currently doing it to contact us," Moore said. "We have found a few, like I said, that were not compliant and it is a health, safety and welfare thing when people are going to stay on your property."

The commission also plans to consider setting public hearings for three other requests for conditional-use permits. Keith and Kimberly Hartke applied for a permit to open their property at 319 Windy Way in the High Knob subdivision to tourists. Jason Miller requested a permit for his property at 4251 Blue Mountain Road in the Blue Mountain subdivision. The Hartke and Miller properties are zoned for residential use. Paul and Jennifer Miller applied for a permit to open their property at 492 Panhandle Road to tourists. The Miller's property is zoned for agricultural use.

More than a dozen short-term rentals already operate in the county, Moore said. The administrator estimated his department has received about seven or eight requests for permits in the past few months.

Interest in short-term tourist rentals increased recently following the publicity surrounding county resident Tareq Salahi's request for the necessary permit, Moore said. The Board of Supervisors last month denied Salahi's request for the permit after hearing concerns from neighbors. Salahi had been renting out his home in Mosby Overlook Estates to tourists for about a year before neighbors alerted the county.

"I've received some phone calls from people saying 'well, I've read about this in the paper so I want make sure that we're doing what we're supposed to do and that we're compliant,'" Moore said. "It all depends on where they are and their zoning district."

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

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