Board asks legislators to oppose, support bills

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders took a stand Tuesday on some legislation moving through the General Assembly this session.

The Board of Supervisors voted to adopt resolutions of support for, or opposition to, several bills that would affect local government operations and cost.

The board opposes two bills in the House of Delegates and two in the state Senate meant to establish a Limited Residential Lodging Act that, if approved, would allow short-term tourist rentals as a by-right use in gated communities. The county spent the better part of 2014 dealing with short-term tourist rental applications, many of which sparked opposition by neighbors in gated communities. Some property owners argued that they should be able to use their houses as rentals for income.

Warren County code requires a conditional-use permit for a short-term tourist rental on properties in either the agricultural or residential (R-1) zoning districts. If the use was deemed by-right, short-term tourist rentals would be allowed in gated communities and in close proximity to other homes.

“Localities would no longer have the zoning authority to require a conditional-use permit for such a use in a residential zoning district,” the resolution states. “Such a by-right use is more appropriate in an agricultural zoning district.”

Del. Christopher K. Peace, R-Mechanicsville, introduced House Bill 812 and Del. Scott W. Taylor, R-Virginia Beach, sponsored House Bill 1268. Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Upperville, sponsored Senate Bill 216 while Sen. Bill R. DeSteph Jr., R-Virginia Beach, introduced Senate Bill 751.

Staff members recommended that the county send the resolution of opposition to state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and Delegates C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock; Michael Webert, R-Marshall; and Christopher Collins, R-Winchester.

The board also adopted a resolution asking the local delegation to oppose Senate Bill 629, sponsored by Sen. William M. Stanley Jr., R-Moneta, which prohibits any locality from barring or requiring a special-use permit for camping by a landowner and his or her family or nonpaying guests for no more than two months per year. County code allows the use by-right in the agricultural zoning district but requires a conditional-use permit for private camping in residential districts.

House Bill 1250, sponsored by Del. Tony O. Wilt, R-Harrisonburg, and Senate Bill 673, sponsored by Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Mount Solon, would merge stormwater and erosion and sediment control requirements. The bills would require localities such as Warren County that chose to opt out of the requirements and let the state handle stormwater programs to conduct complex calculations for water quality and quantity when land disturbances exceed 10,000 square feet. The bills would impose additional costs on the county, according to the resolution adopted by the board.

Senate Bill 597, sponsored by Sen. John A. Cosgrove Jr., R-Chesapeake, would allow a property owner who appeals an assessment to the circuit court to have his or her case heard by a jury. Property owners already can appeal assessments to the court and judges hear their cases. Local officials argue that juries are not real estate experts, particularly on income-earning, commercial and industrial properties. Jurors also would not have the ability to ask questions or conduct research. The proposed legislation would lead to more court appeals and increased judicial costs, the resolution states.

The board adopted resolutions asking the local delegation to support several bills that might benefit the county. House Bills 85 and 1192 sponsored by Dels. Jeffrey L. Campbell, R-Marion, and Kathleen J. Murphy, D-McLean, respectively, would allow any county to levy a tax on cigarettes. State code allows only cities, towns and the counties of Arlington and Fairfax to tax cigarettes.

The board requests in a resolution of support that the General Assembly amend House Bill 182, sponsored by Del. J. Randall Minchew, R-Leesburg, to add Warren County to the list of localities under the state code that can levy an additional transient occupancy, or hotel tax, of up to 3 percent. This would allow Warren County to increase its hotel tax to 5 percent. Per the resolution, the county would use the revenue from the additional tax for tourism efforts.

The board adopted a resolution asking the local delegation to support Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Janet D. Howell, D-Reston, which would increase from $10 to $20 the maximum amount a governing body can charge a convicted defendant as part of the costs in a criminal or traffic case in district or circuit court to fund courthouse security.

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