VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Being a top tourist destination is no surprise to Virginia Beach. In fact, it's welcome to city officials. However, as its population surges, the number of rentals on Airbnb, an online marketplace where people can lease or rent homes, the city is working to get a grasp on regulating it.
For about two hours Tuesday, the city council discussed a variety of topics surrounding short term rentals, including ensuring proper parking is available (one spot per bedroom), no more than two rental contracts during any consecutive seven day period and perhaps restricting where short-term rentals can take place.
A few city council members said they know a lot of people who don't want short-term rentals in their districts. One of those people is Donna Watson, who lives in Sandbridge. She said it's a vibrant community she enjoys living and raising her kids in.
"Short-term rentals are a part of our communities and should be allowed, but I think there are neighborhoods where they do not belong there. And they've been allowed to proliferate. I was hoping city council would look at conditional use permits," said Watson.
Under current zoning laws, short-term rentals are not allowed. However, that doesn't stop more than 300 rental options for the resort city on Airbnb. Watson said she's more concerned about where short-term rentals take place and want them to be strictly regulated.
"If you're having commercial ventures in a neighborhood and they're not supposed to be there without some kind of control. That's not fair to our neighbors or the people who live there," said Watson.
According to registrations with the city commissioner, rentals by council district are as follows:
- District 1 - Centerville: 21
- District 2 - Kempsville: 30
- District 3 - Rose Hall: 29
- District 4 - Bayside: 75
- District 5 - Lynnhaven: 213
- District 6 - Beach: 717
- District 7 - Princess Anne: 632
Watson is said she's mainly concerned about the safety of renters and homeowners in more traditional neighborhoods.
"Safety is a primary concern there should be some limits on the number of short term rentals allowed in a seven day period so you don't destabilize neighborhoods," she said.
On the other side, Mark Hrisko, who is the president of Coast to Coast Property Group and an avid Airbnb user, said it has a different allure than hotels.
"It's safe. I'm not worried about who is staying next door, people partying, coming into the hotels, and keeping us up. With a family of five - when we go overseas or travel up to UVA for a football game, it's just so much easier to get an Airbnb versus a hotel room when you have five people," said Hrisko.
He also said he doesn't mind if his own neighbors rent out their home.
City council is planning on grandfathering in some short-term rental, but haven't decided on a date to start from. More discussions will be taking place.
However, Watson said she wants one thing to be the priority above all else in future discussions.
"I think it should be the primary focus of council to consider the health and safety of people who come to visit Virginia Beach," she said.