VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Tuesday night was another marathon meeting for the Virginia Beach City Council, with more than 40 speakers weighing in on the revised plan on short-term rentals in Virginia Beach.
After more than four hours, council members ultimately decided to defer a vote on the proposed ordinance tightening restrictions on vacation rentals.
“This is a dynamic process, and we wouldn’t be having a hearing on it if we had made up our minds,” said Virginia Beach City Council Member At-Large John Moss.
The latest proposal changed last Thursday. It would limit operators to just a single rental per week.
Additionally, the plan would further limit where short-term rentals can operate. Instead of three overlay districts, there would be two, allowing vacation rentals in the Resort Area and North Beach. Sandbridge would continue to operate as it has.
Many folks spoke out on both sides of the proposed regulations, which include a two-people per bedroom limit and periodic deck inspections as well as a limit on the number of contracts per year.
Elaine Fekete with Virginia Beach Short-Term Rental Alliance said the city needs to find a better solution.
“The decision to allow STRs in one neighborhood at the Oceanfront and not another is a grave concern and the question of whether this is really the most equitable solution,” Fekete said. “Voting for somewhat arbitrary boundaries, particularly when those boundaries exclude neighborhoods that have historically had several rentals, will produce unintended consequences.”
“Old Beach is no longer included,” he said. “Shadowlawn is not included. This is where, predominantly, we've already had intense historical short-term rentals, so I do think this is the right answer. I don't think it's discriminatory in any way.”
Other speakers pleaded for common ground.
“Let’s work on this as Paige just mentioned,” one man said. “I'd like to see a group of folks that are for this and folks that are against this come together and talk this thing out.”
Several spoke out in favor of deferring the vote.
“I think that the proposals on the table are a reasonable way to start and continue the dialogue about how we keep our sense of community in the neighborhoods,” one woman said.
Many residents have long complained about the rapid turnover of people in rentals, loud parties and crowds.
Council members will hold a workshop to further discuss the matter next Tuesday, June 22. A vote on the proposed ordinance changes is set for July 6.
Beach city council also took public comments on the new voting system for city council and school board members.
A new state law requires Beach residents to vote for candidates in their district. For 25 years, residents were able to vote for candidates in any district, which was ruled illegal by a federal judge.
Tuesday night, residents who oppose the voting changes said they weren't given enough notice about two public hearings on the matter because mailed notices were late getting to residents.
"We understand at that time that it should take approximately seven to nine days from that date for the postcard to be delivered,” said Mark Stiles, the city attorney. “Unfortunately, for reasons beyond the city's control, and for reasons we do not yet understand, we understand that it took two weeks for those to be delivered and hence, a lot of people did not receive those postcards in time to participate."
The public hearings were scheduled on June 1 and June 8.
Virginia Beach resident Susan Hippen said her postcard arrived on June 9. She addressed the council.
"Two of you should not be seated if you had gone by the votes in the district that you must reside in to run in,” Hippen said. “Let me restate that. Two of you lost the election. You're only here because voters outside the district voted for you. You know who you are, and you know it's not right. We are a nation of the people, by the people, for the people. If you need to fight against those principles, you should not be an elected official."
The change comes after concern was raised that the current system denies access to minority voters. A federal judge agreed and ruled it unconstitutional.
The court asked the city to come up with a new voting plan by July 1.