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Commission tackles tourist rentals

By Alex Bridges

Potential changes to the Warren County rules on tourist rentals may not be as sweeping as some property owners fear.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday revisited the ordinance that allows for short-term tourist rentals in certain places. The commission addressed concerns raised by residents and property owners. Planning Director Taryn Logan said Thursday the panel talked about possible additions the supplemental regulations used to govern such property use.

Logan said they have heard from both sides of the issue and that they are trying to put in additional regulations. "It's just kind of hard to distinguish between the residential areas ... Each community has its own character."

Planners may not look at the rules and how they pertain to gated versus non-gated communities.

"We're looking at a lot of different options," Logan said. "I don't know if that's going to be a recommendation to change where it's allowed but we're trying to get a better handle on the concerns."

The commission didn't come to a consensus on what changes the county could make. Logan said her department plans to give some suggestions to the commission at another work session.

Kimberly Hartke applied for a conditional-use permit months after renting a property. The Planning Commission recommended the Board of Supervisors deny the request. Supervisors tabled the request pending the commission presenting its suggestions.

Hartke attended the work session along with fellow renter Chris Pollock. Hartke said Thursday that the commission's "decisions do not make it possible for us to obtain the needed permit." She and her husband Keith now must offer their cabin as an executive, furnished rental for a 30-plus-day lease while the couple finds a buyer.

"The two knock out factors for us is that the Planning Commission seems to feel gated communities have the right to exclude short term rentals, and that HOA approval is required," Hartke states in an email. "My position is that second home owners, whether they rent their property or not, also need the protection a gated community affords to secure their residence, which is often unoccupied."

Hartke said several commissioners recognize improvements that rentals have made to the Blue Mountain subdivision.

Some options included a requirement that an owner have a property management plan, including local points of contact; to clean up garbage; to manage tenants and to respond to any complaints; and to have an emergency evacuation plan. Rentals are supposed to have smoke alarms. The commission also considered a requirement that a rental home have a landline telephone especially in the event of an emergency.

"If somebody's there and they're not familiar with the community, they really need to know the community rules," Logan said.

The Planning and Zoning Department researched how other jurisdictions around the county handle tourist rentals. Some communities allow rentals with a conditional use permit. Others treat rentals as a by-right use. Some do not allow tourist rentals at all.

"This is a nationwide topic it seems in a lot of communities," Logan said. "It seems like each community is evaluating the effect of the use on their community specifically. So I think that's what we want to do, obviously."

The popularity of tourist rentals might stem from several websites property owners use to advertise these homes, cabins and bed and breakfast businesses.

Whether High Knob residents would support changes to the regulations planners may suggest remains uncertain, Don Day, the homeowners' association board president, said Thursday. Many homeowners have come out to oppose any short-term rentals. More than 70 residents petitioned the county to prohibit rentals in their neighborhood of 456 dwelling units.

The High Knob homeowners' association board wants to see the county put additional rules for rentals sought in gated communities, including restrictions on the distance between houses and lot sizes, Day said.

Day attended the work session and said he supports the recommendation that the county require a property manager post rules at each rental and suggestions provided by the fire marshal to keep smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in the home.

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

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