Panel only backs few changes to rental rules

By Alex Bridges

Proposed changes to Warren County’s zoning rules might make it tougher to rent homes to tourists but stop short of banning the businesses.

The Planning Commission last week reached a consensus on how the county should revise the ordinance that allows property owners to run their homes as short-term tourist rentals. The county has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed changes for Oct. 8.

Commissioner Lorraine Smelser pointed out that planners propose no major changes to the ordinance that already gives the county discretion over tourist rentals.

“As far as I’m concerned, on the Planning Commission, we make those conditions based upon the property and I think we have language in place that takes care of that,” Smelser said Tuesday. “[I], personally, didn’t see the need to make any significant changes.”

The Board of Supervisors asked the commission earlier this summer to revisit the ordinance after several requests for rental permits sparked opposition, mostly by residents of gated communities. The commission has held two work sessions on the topic with supporters and foes of rentals in attendance.

“We have worked on it and done our best to try to come up with something that was fair and equitable to all,” Smelser said.

Opponents sought more significant changes to the rules. In an Aug. 29 letter, Don Day, president of the board of directors for the High Knob Owners’ Association, suggested the county ban short-term tourist rentals in any existing gated communities.

The supervisors adopted new regulations to the zoning ordinance a couple of years ago to allow short-term tourist rentals under certain conditions. The county zoning ordinance defines short-term tourist rental as a single-family home rented for less than 30 days.

Planning Director Taryn Logan said Tuesday the commission did not recommend a minimum lot-size requirement. The commission did recommend a 100-foot setback from the tourist rental home to neighboring residences.

Under the proposed changes, the county would no longer allow rentals as a by-right use on parcels of more than 5 acres in an agricultural district. All rentals would require conditional-use permits regardless of parcel size or district.

The Planning Department already informs property and homeowners’ associations when someone applies for a permit to run a tourist rental, Logan said. The ordinance, if changed, would require the department to receive a recommendation for approval or denial from an association should the property lie in a subdivision governed by such an organization. The commission considers and would continue to consider association input, Smelser said.

The Planning Commission forwards to the supervisors its recommendations for approval or denial of a conditional-use permit request. Supervisors have the final say on such permits. The department inspects the rentals for compliance with the conditions and regulations and can revoke a permit for repeated violations.

Other changes proposed require that:

  • A rental have a “land-line” telephone with the contact number included in the required property management plan
  • Owners provide an emergency evacuation plan for the home and neighborhood
  • A copy of the county’s noise ordinance be provided at the rental
  • Any outdoor burning at the property comply with county code

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or

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