The Short-Term rental bill HB2271 has finally woken the Shore from its dogmatic slumber and exposed the Resident Evil which is the tourist/vacation rental industry (mafia). Can we for once just be honest and say it? The Real Estate Industry has exploited our culture, land, towns, and natural resources in the name of stuffing the pockets of so-called ‘real estate investors’. The bill itself is pretty meaningless and is just the government/industry’s way of saying the quiet part out loud. The damage has already been done.
But, let’s continue:
Reader submitted – This bill states that short-term rental properties that are managed by a Virginia realtor do not have to comply with the following short-term rental ordinance provisions:
1. a prohibition on short-term rentals
2. limitations on occupancy in a short-term rental property to less than what is allowed under the building code or a local zoning ordinance
3. a limitation on the number of days for which a short-term rental property can be rented
4. a requirement that an owner shall occupy the property as his primary residence for any number of days
5. a requirement for the installation of any type of remote monitoring device on the short-term rental property, including decibel, audio, or video
6. exterior or interior inspections of the short-term rental property pertaining to any items defined under the building code more frequently than 3 years, unless a complaint has been filed
7. required repairs, renovations, or updates to the structure of the short-term rental property that are greater than those required under the applicable building code
8. requirement for an owner to add additional or otherwise alter existing parking spaces for the short-term rental property.
*For provisions #3 and #4 there is the ability to create a written process whereby the Virginia realtor can apply to rent for more days and apply to rent for more days without satisfying the residency requirement.
There is an additional clause that states that any provision in an ordinance that relates to a short-term rental that restricts the number of days or requires the owner-occupied provision cannot be enforced for a short-term rental managed by a Virginia realtor if the ordinance was not passed prior to January 1, 2023.
While Shore residents are gathering pitchforks and torches over the perceived loss of “Local Control” and the misguided belief that something called a Comprehensive Plan has any real meaning, the sad part is that we did it to ourselves; we voted for people that openly, and behind closed doors, promoted this outcome.
This writer has been yelling into the abyss like an Edvard Munch painting for almost 20 years, warning that the tourist industry (which included real estate investment in vacation property) would be our undoing. Everything we cherish about this place will be raped, exploited, and sold to the highest bidder. Just look at the summer dystopian hellscape that is Cape Charles. But y’all be all addicted to the ToT tax–bring on the tourists and let’s spend that blood money.
Now that Cape Charles is overrun, the muck and filth are seeping into the County–so, now y’all are worried about it. The County folks always felt they were immune to the viruses that infect Cape Charles, never realizing that Cape Charles is the fireplace whence heat and light emanate into the darkness. The vacation/investment property virus has now infected the once-hidden gems of the County (hello Smith Beach).
Whether the bill passes or doesn’t pass doesn’t matter. What exactly are localities ever going to about someone buying property and then renting it out as a short-term vacation stay? Can you fairly say Joe Schmoe can do it over here, but Joe Blow, on a similar property over there, cannot? It’s not fair, and not how basic property owner rights work.
A reader-submitted comment reflects the local malaise:
My husband and I purchased our home on Monroe Avenue, in 2015.
At that time, there was only one long-term rental in our block, which includes 12 homes.
The quiet, residential nature of our block was so appealing, that even though we had never owned a historic home before, or lived in a town, we were smitten. In addition to the beautiful homes, we are blessed to have neighbors, both full-time and part-time, who know each other and look out for each other. Many people called this “Mayberry:” quiet, beautiful, and safe.
Then, about 4 years ago, some folks from Northern Virginia purchased one of the homes in our block. They invested about a year in sweat equity, to return the home to its original beauty.
Then they listed it on VRBO For $4,000 per week.
The first summer was not bad. Most of their guests were extended family units, who were quiet, respectful, and appreciative of our little paradise. I guess $4k is not a lot to pay for a week of paradise. But last summer, things were different. I caught a child, unsupervised, running his bike through my neighbor’s flower garden. Another group had 5 elementary school-age kids who were recklessly riding their bikes, jumping the curb into the street, without looking for traffic. Also unsupervised.
In September, a group of 9 women rented the house for about 4 days. Nearly all 9 women drove separately and took up all the street parking for 6 lots, plus they rented 3 golf carts.
So much for peace and quiet.
Now the house next door has been sold, also to someone from Northern Virginia, and just hit VRBO before Christmas. And it appears it is already rented for the whole summer. Plus, a house sold last fall in our block, to someone who already has other STRs in Cape Charles, so we anticipate that by summer, 3 out of 12 homes in our block will be STRs.
It is not cheap to maintain an old house. We and our neighbors take great pride in keeping our historic homes repaired and painted, and our yards beautified with gardens and trees. Because Cape Charles is a town, we pay taxes to both the town and Northampton county. This past year, the tax assessment for our home, from Northampton county increased 72%. We are retired and do not have children in the public schools, but we are happy to support the town and county, especially as relates to the k-12 schools, with our tax dollars.
We pay dearly for this sweet little piece of paradise, where we enjoy hosting family and friends and little grandchildren, but it is worth it to us. What we do not appreciate is people who do not live here, are not part of our community, but who are making a huge profit selling the beauty, peace, quiet, and safety that we cherish, and for which we pay dearly. The only people who will benefit from SB1391 are people interested in getting rich at the expense of small communities like ours.
As newly registered voters, as of last fall, in Northampton county, you can be sure that we pay close attention to issues like this, and will not vote for someone who does not represent the interests of the people who have chosen to make the Eastern Shore our home.
As an addendum, below is a response from Lynwood Lewis sent to RH Meyers regarding the Senate Bill. Mr. Myers’s response is as follows:
Your email response on behalf of Lynwood is a gross insult to the intelligence of anyone who has even a small knowledge of the Northampton County Comprehensive Plan and its derived zoning. From what you wrote, it seems that your understanding of SB1391 is seriously lacking with little to no understanding of land use under many parts of Va Code. Trying desperately to be polite, I ask that you seek land use professional help before further discussion to increase your education. I would suggest you contact Greehan, & Taves & Pandak law firm. They specialize in Virginia Land Use Law. Mr. Randy Greehan was instrumental in the formation of our Comprehensive Plan. As I wrote, SB1391 is very poorly written legislation and should be withdrawn.