VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Those hoping to operate a new Airbnb anywhere along the city’s bayside coastline is officially out of luck if Virginia Beach City Council’s latest regulations on short-term rentals are approved Tuesday.
The revised proposal revealed Thursday would completely eliminate any new vacation rentals along the Shore Drive corridor and tighten rules on rentals currently in operation.
Anyone looking to start operating a short-term rental (STR) would only be allowed to do so if they have property in Sandbridge, or within specific boundaries at the Oceanfront or North End. And even then, in the North End, limits would be placed on how many property owners within a particular community would be allowed to operate a short-term rental.
All STRs outside of Sandbridge would be limited to only one rental contract per week, and on-site inspections as well as a summary document of days rented will be due to the city ahead of receiving a permit.
They are all a part of city’s latest attempt to crack down on an industry that has been anything but a “short” debate for more than five years.
The issue comes down to property rights. While companies have managed vacation homes in the resort city for more than a century, the emergence of mobile platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo have changed the game completely.
Property owners in the tourist town can make extra money by renting their properties to vacationers who prefer homes over hotels. However, those owning homes in coastal communities and not interested in renting have complained that the constant flow of strangers coming and going is disruptive.
“We live here for the sureness. Not because we want to live next to a hotel,” said Paula Whitehurst at a public hearing in front of City Council earlier this month. Whitehurst lives in the Old Beach neighborhood at the Oceanfront where the number of short-term rentals operating has ballooned in recent years.
The public hearing lasted more than two and a half hours with many opponents of STRs telling stories of parking nightmares, out of control parties that sometimes ended in violence and an overall disruption to traditional owner-occupied neighborhoods.
“The guests who come here seem to have no regard to us who live next door who have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to go to work,” Whitehurst said.
Just as many speakers defended the use of STRs, and said the new rules would punish those who are already respectfully renting.
Paige Miyares is an agent with Atkinson Reality in Virginia Beach, which has long managed vacation rentals.
“It sets the stage for putting people like me out of business,” Miyares said. “The tightening of the areas where they can be. The density caps they’ve proposed eliminates the flow in and out of the market which is key for a professional company like myself.”
Miyares said City Council’s proposal raises large equity issues in that identical properties will be treated differently depending on what side of the street they are on.
It’s one of the reasons she helped to form the Virginia Beach Property Rights Coalition.
In a recent letter to City Council, the group touted the benefit of STRs to the tax base as well as local businesses.
“Virginia Beach’s competitors embrace this rental market while Virginia Beach risks regulating this vacation rental market out of existence,” the letter read.
The group listed the regulations they support such as the two-per-bedroom occupancy limit, deck inspections every three years and limits on the number of rental contracts per year.
“We support local, licensed, professional management for vacation rentals as they must maintain the highest professional standards,” the letter said.
Regardless of what City Council approves, a $200 yearly fee per STR operator will be collected starting July 1, in order for the city to hire two new employees dedicated solely to ensure compliance with the city rules.
“I think we need to get some enforcement in place and give it a chance to work,” Miyares said.
She hopes City Council chooses to defer their vote to find a better solution.
“The ones that are on the table are not what the public’s asking for and it’s not going to solve the problems that have been presented,” Miyares said.