Lake Anna, VA – Rental homeowners were pleased to note at its September 19 meeting the Louisa County Board of Supervisors voted to table discussion of proposed amendments to the County Code, Chapter 86. Land Development Regulations – Short-Term Rental of a Dwelling. Members of the Lake Anna community that live in the neighborhoods with rental homes weren’t as enthused.
The goal of the amendment according to Louisa County staff was to change the term “Short-term tourist rental of dwelling” to “Short-term rental of dwelling,” to add restrictions for short term rental of dwelling, and to establish the zoning districts where this use would be allowed by-right or with the issuance of a conditional use permit by the Board of Supervisors.”
Since September the issue has continued to attract the attention of residents, business owners, rental owners and Louisa County officials.
As a result of citizen request, Mineral District Supervisor and Chairman of the Louisa Board of Supervisors, Duane Adams created a Short Term Rental Stakeholder Workgroup intended to represent various Lake Anna interests on both sides of the issue and reach consensus on a path forward. Under Adams’ guidance, the group has met twice; first on October 13 and then again on November 14.
Members of the workgroup that attended at least one meeting included lake resident Barbara Coe of Overton Fork, realtors Ashley and Grayson Hoffman, property manager and developer John Romano, Lake Anna businessman (publisher of Lake Anna Life & Times) C.C. McCotter, Tammy Boxley of Out of the Box Catering, Steve Harler of Mid Atlantic Watersports and Mid Atlantic Dock Building and Lake Anna resident Mark Ainsworth as well as Supervisor Adams, members of the Virginia Department of Health, Louisa County legal staff and Louisa County Community Development staff.
After the two meetings the group has agreed on the following points for consideration:
1) The establishment of a short-term rental of a dwelling registration number and registration process/form.
2) Regulations requiring short-term rental home septic tanks to be inspected once every 24 months.
The workgroup also discussed the current Virginia Department of Health regulations that determine the two per bedroom limit statute in effect for all residential Virginia dwellings.
Some members of the group asked if the occupancy rate could be increased if the County used a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) instead of the VDH permit. Following discussions with the Building Official (not present), it was determined that one of the main factors for the Certificate of Occupancy is the VDH permit. This means both the CO and VDH permit would state the same occupancy.
If short term rental owners wanted to increase their occupancy, it was determined that process would be faster if the County used the VDH permit as the guide for occupancy and allowed the proposed VDH options to increase occupancy.
Josh Kirtley from VDH was in attendance to explain the three options to increase the occupancy of the VDH permit and answer questions: 1) through a VDH process, STR owners may obtain an Engineer Report to increase occupancy with expanding the septic system. Once an Engineer Report is obtained, the STR owner will file with Louisa County for amended occupancy, 2) The STR owner may complete the process of expanding their septic system to support higher occupancy rates per bedroom and 3) the STR owner may add bedrooms and expand their septic system accordingly.
Not everyone agreed on the requirement to use the Certificate of Occupancy or the VDH permit as a guide for occupancy. The County Attorney’s Office stated that based on current state legislation, one of those methods would be required to establish occupancy.
County staff noted in post meeting notes: “In summary, the County Attorney’s Office and VDH representative agreed that the VDH permit is required law, and the County can not approve a regulation to permit higher occupancy than VDH regulations and exceptions could allow.”
The group also discussed a process for violation citations and the penalties for violations. The process begins with a complaint and code enforcement verifies a violation is present. Then there are several opportunities for the owner(s) to abate the issue before it goes to court and becomes one of the three violations for habitual offender status. The group agreed that habitual offender violations should have a defined period after review, and staff recommended 24 months. Thus, individuals would need to incur three violations within 24 months before becoming habitual offenders. Upon a third violation being adjudicated by the court, the property owner will be prohibited from rental until the following 24-month period begins.
The group also acknowledged that short-term rentals were a commercial use of a residentially zoned property, an activity currently prohibited in the Louisa County zoning code, and noted the proposed regulations allow individuals to legally own and operate short-term rentals in Louisa County.
Lastly, some members of the group felt it was prudent to perform an economic impact study prior to taking any action on STR regulation enforcement or amendment, citing massive loss of income if STRs were limited to the required two transient visitors per bedroom. Others disagreed, noting supply side economic theory would see more homes being rented.
“The explosion of STRs across the country has also impacted the Lake Anna area. Driven recently by the Covid-19 pandemic the popularity of these rentals has grown exponentially since 2020,” Supervisor Adams told Life & Times.
“As with all things, STRs are a two-sided coin; while giving more people an opportunity to visit a locality they also can impact existing neighborhoods.”
“The Board created the STR Workgroup to address concerns of local residents and to learn more about the STR situation in Louisa County. Comprised of stakeholders across the spectrum of our community, the workgroup has focused on impacts to our economy, neighborhoods and any potential regulation. These discussions have centered around septic system concerns and occupancy.
“The final draft of potential guidelines is currently being circulated among the workgroup for any changes, concerns or edits. I expect the issue will be publicly discussed in early 2023.”