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Accountability and a leveling of the playing field – these were the main desires voiced by residents during Wednesday night’s public hearing on short-term online home rentals.
The hearing came amid heightened scrutiny of the home-sharing economy in Virginia Beach. The city opened an online survey last week, asking for opinions on the rentals; the survey closes Sept. 28. And a city-appointed ad hoc committee, which is meeting this month to discuss the rentals and come up with recommendations to council, held a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the city council chamber at City Hall, 2401 Courthouse Dr.
“Imagine the value of your home if your neighbors wake up and decide to run their home as a business,” said Dave Jester, who belongs to the North Beach Civic League.
More than 20 people showed up for the hearing, and only a couple of attendees spoke in favor of short-term rentals. Many of the Virginia Beach residents in attendance, including Cheryl Petticrew, who lives at 308 Swordfish Ln., and Catherine Miller, who lives at 2825 Sandfiddler Rd., voiced concerns about parking, trash, safety and noise-related issues that arise when visitors rent homes in neighborhoods.
Rebecca Kindley, a Sandbridge resident, said she can’t sleep when she hears fireworks going off from rentals nearby, for fear a spark will ignite a dry sand dune, setting it ablaze.
Parks Atkinson, who lives at 3523 Sandpiper Rd., said large homes in Sandbridge being rented out by real estate companies should be scrutinized in the same manner as the smaller online-home rentals.
A couple of speakers mentioned how other rental companies, which aren’t online, have a platform to voice complaints which can then be addressed. With online rentals, there isn’t an office to walk into, or a number to call, they pointed out.
Still, at least one resident expressed support for online rentals.
Eva Butts, who lives at 340 Tuna Ln., said the service creates a sharing of the economy and provides a more unique and intimate experience to visitors than conventional lodging. The rentals should be regulated, she said, but very cautiously.
Ad hoc committee member Kevin Duffan threaded the large number of voiced concerns together under one concept. Noise, tax remittance, “that all goes back to accountability,” Duffan said. “And realistically, that’s what I see this committee being able to propose to City Council to ultimately propose as new ordinances, that can address accountability.”
By the end of September, the ad hoc committee is expected to make recommendations to City Council about potential changes to a new city ordinance that requires people who rent their homes to register with the city and pay a transient occupancy tax. The committee will also provide input for the General Assembly Workgroup and the Council’s General Assembly legislative agenda.
The committee’s third and final meeting meeting is set for Sept. 28, but members must send in their individual recommendations to Bob Matthias, assistant to City Manager Dave Hansen, by Sept. 22. On Oct. 4, the committee will meet with council and provide recommendations.
“We got a lot of information from people and the audience here,” Bruce Johnson, an ad hoc committee member, said after the hearing. “Now we just have a huge task.”