A state lawmaker who wants Virginia Beach to loosen its control over short-term rentals is using the power of his office to apply pressure.
Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) has introduced a bill in the General Assembly that would unravel city laws designed to restrict the vacation lodging option in Virginia Beach.
New short-term rentals are only allowed in approved “overlay districts” where 75% of property owners in a community support them. Sandbridge is the only exception. The City Council passed the law last summer after years of public outreach and debate on the impact of short-term rentals, also referred to as STRs, on residential neighborhoods.
STRs would no longer require neighborhood approval under DeSteph’s bill, and they wouldn’t be subject to additional parking and occupancy requirements.
The bill is being reviewed by the Senate committee on local government.
“It basically takes everything Virginia Beach has done with short-term rentals and undoes it,” Debra Bryant, legislative affair liaison for the city, told the City Council members at a Jan. 18 meeting.
DeSteph said on Tuesday he’s concerned about how Virginia Beach’s laws are affecting long-standing local realty companies and wants to “get the conversation moving forward.”
“The city went a little far,” the senator said.
Virginia Beach Property Rights Coalition, which advocates for the short-term rental industry, has said that the city’s goal is to drive the vacation home rental market out of Virginia Beach, forcing vacationers to rent expensive hotels.
Most of the City Council members oppose DeSteph’s bill. Only Councilman Aaron Rouse asked for more clarification.
“We have a short-term rental scheme in place in the city that we have spent months and months and have had many, many public hearings on,” Councilman Guy Tower said at the council’s Jan. 18 meeting. “To let it be overrun by state action without defense of it is unacceptable as far as I’m concerned.”
Councilman John Moss agreed with Tower.
“We have spent years, not just a few years, years and much political capital on everyone’s part to find the thing that works,” Moss said at the meeting. “What we have in place is good for the community.”
Both Moss and Tower said they’re willing to work with DeSteph on a reasonable solution.
Several residents who are opposed to the bill have voiced their opinions on Richmond Sunlight, an independent website that aggregates information about the General Assembly.
“I am very surprised by Mr. DeSteph’s sponsorship of this bill, which so brazenly subverts the expressed will of so many people in Virginia Beach who have worked so hard to obtain ordinances which limit the proliferation of the STR industry into our residential neighborhoods,” commented Larry Horvath, a Baylake Pines Civic League officer, on the website.
Nancy Parker, who lives at the Oceanfront, said that she hopes the bill gets killed.
“The City Council of Virginia Beach found a means to protect residential communities as well as designate an area at the Oceanfront that was zoned to accommodate this use with regulations that would provide some safety and oversight,” Parker commented on Richmond Sunlight. “The prospect of making any and all neighborhoods subject to short term rentals tears at the very fabric of what makes a cohesive community.”
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, firstname.lastname@example.org