New rules for tourist rentals head to board

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — New rules for tourist rentals in Warren County are headed to the Board of Supervisors.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed changes to the ordinance that sets regulations for short-term tourist rentals. After hearing comments from about 10 people, the commission voted unanimously to forward the proposal to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation that it approve the new rules.

The board will take up the commission’s recommendation at its Nov. 5 meeting and could schedule a public hearing on the amended ordinance for later that month.

County Planner Matt Wendling said Thursday that two of the speakers said they opposed the proposed rule that requires anyone wishing to run a short-term rental to obtain a conditional-use permit regardless of the property’s zoning or size. Other speakers voiced support for the changes.

Currently the county does not require a permit to run a rental on property greater than five acres and zoned for agriculture use. The county requires a permit for rentals on any property zoned for residential use or on land of less than five acres in an agricultural district.

Any rental currently operating under an approved permit would be grandfathered in under the existing ordinance, Wendling said. There is currently one rental operating under a permit.

The most significant changes include a new requirement that owners must create a property management plan demonstrating how the short-term rental will be managed and its impacts on neighboring properties. Applicants must submit this plan as part of the permit-approval process. The plan must include local points of contact available to respond immediately to complaints, clean up garbage, manage unruly tenants and handle utility issues. Contact numbers also would need to be provided to county staff, public safety officials and the homeowners or property owners associations if applicable.

Under the proposed rules, should the property lie in a subdivision governed by a homeowners or property owners association, the Planning Department must receive a recommendation either of approval or disapproval from the organization.

The Department of Fire and Rescue Services also has recommended that the ordinance also require any rental to have a land-line phone with local service, with the contact number included in the management plan.

The changes also address concerns raised over noise and outdoor fires. The commission also recommends that the ordinance require a minimum of 100 feet from any rental to all neighboring homes. Wendling said this requirement could bar using some dwellings as rentals in the future.

Supervisors sent the ordinance back to the Planning Department and the commission in July to revisit the rules in response to several permit requests for rentals on residential property that attracted opposition from neighbors and homeowners associations. The county has received about a dozen permit applications for short-term tourist rentals. Currently seven of these requests are on hold pending the review of the ordinance.

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