Supervisors deny rental permit for local house

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders put the kibosh on a couple’s efforts to rent a house to tourists, but the owners say they plan to appeal.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on Tuesday to deny a request for a conditional-use permit to rent a house at 319 Windy Way, in the High Knob subdivision, to tourists. Supervisors cited concerns raised by neighbors that such use did not fit with the community as the reason for the denial.

Supervisors revisited Keith and Kimberly Hartke’s request months after tabling the matter to allow county officials time to tweak the regulations for short-term tourist rentals. The board recently adopted recommended changes to the regulations, one of which requires that permit applications come with input from a property owner’s group should the home lie in a neighborhood where such organization exists.

Supervisor Tony Carter made the motion to deny the permit request. Carter noted, as he has in the past, that the board takes action on such permits on a case-by-case basis. Board Chairman Richard Traczyk said Tuesday he would give a lot of weight to the recommendations of the surrounding property owners when voting on permits.

“This [community] overwhelmingly does not approve it,” Traczyk said. “It looks like a couple hundred signatures opposing this thing and that’s where I’m going to put most of my weight.”

Hartke applied for the permit earlier this year after the county began to crack down on property owners who were renting homes to tourists without permission.

Kimberly Hartke stated in an email Tuesday afternoon: “We are currently offering our furnished rental as executive housing 30 days+, however, we desire this permit so that between long term leases we are able to accept guests for shorter stays. As residential landlords, we want this flexibility to keep our home occupied and our mortgage paid. We will obviously need to appeal the board’s decision.”

The county defines short-term tourist rental as a property rented to tenants for periods of less than 30 days.

Kimberly Hartke commented in the email that they are trying to meet the community’s concerns by looking for longer-term guests. However, the market for short-term rentals is stronger in Warren County than long-term rentals, she added.

High Knob residents have voiced opposition to the Hartke’s request. The Planning Commission in July recommended the board deny the Hartke’s request because a short-term tourist rental would change the character of the neighborhood.

The Board of Supervisors heard opponents and a few supporters at a public hearing on the request. Supervisors decided to table action on the permit application and then asked the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Planning Commission to revisit the county’s ordinance regulating short-term tourist rentals.

Supervisors allowed owners of short-term tourist rentals whose permit requests had not yet been acted on to continue offering their properties while the county revisited the ordinance.

The commission recommended the county make a few changes to the regulations. The ordinance does not outright prohibit tourist rentals in residential neighborhoods or gated communities.

The Hartkes continued to make a case for renting their property to tourists in a letter to county officials. In the letter, the Hartkes contend that their application for the permit meets all the requirements. They also question whether or not the High Knob Owners’ Association is an “officially recognized” homeowners association.

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