By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
Short term tourist lodging (Airbnb, VBDO, etc.) has been a volatile issue across the Commonwealth over the past few years. The issue has recently come to a head in Greene County – especially in the Greene Mountain Lake neighborhood. On Wednesday night, the Planning Commission recommended elimination of the use in the residential districts (R-1 zoning)
In June 2018, at the request of a resident tourist lodging (less than 30 days) in Residential District (R1) was added to the county code but requires a county issued Special Use Permit (SUP) to provide the opportunity to hear from adjoining property owners and determine any potential negative impacts of the use. The SUP process allows conditions to be placed on the permit to mitigate negative impacts. Such mitigation often includes increased landscaping, reduced number of guests, increased parking requirements, etc. Several SUP requests have been submitted in the last year with mixed results. All of the requests have been in the Greene Mountain Lake neighborhood.
Per previous Planning Commission direction, Planning Administrator Jim Frydl presented the issue the proposal to eliminate the SUP option for Tourist Lodging in the R1 district. Frydl explained that the meeting with the Planning Commission was properly advertised to be sure that the public was aware of the issue on the agenda at the meeting.
The meeting shifted to comments from the public, which 10 of the 11 speakers were opposed to maintaining the SUP option for tourist lodging. The one speaker in favor of keeping the SUP process hoped that the process would be kept in place as she was hoping to supplement her retirement income by renting part of her home.
Those speaking against keeping the SUP in place stressed they had moved into Greene Mountain Lake to enjoy a peaceful neighborhood, some during their retirement years. Many of the other against the SUP stated they would not have moved into Greene Mountain Lake had they known that Tourist Lodging was allowed. Finally, there was concern about the policing of the requirements of the SUP process.
The hearing moved back to the Planning Commission and they all agreed that the Special Use Permit process was given a chance, since the 2018 adoption, and it demonstrated concerns that the neighbors have clearly expressed with Tourist Lodging. Commissioner John McCloskey stated that the citizens have clearly stated their opposition to the SUP system and the elimination of permitting Tourist Lodging will help preserve communities, especially Greene Mountain Lake.
Chairman Jay Willer reminded that the approval of a SUP runs with the property, not with the owner of the property. The motion to recommend the removal of the SUP process allowing Tourist Lodging in the R-1 was unanimously approved. This issue will now go to the Board of Supervisors who will make the final decision.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.