The James City County Planning Commission voiced its support for two new tourist home applications on Wednesday, which will now go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval.
But while the commission voted to recommend the applications, members came to a consensus that more thought should be given to how the short-term rentals fit into the county’s tourism economy. A sunset clause on the special-use permits that allow tourist homes to operate was floated as a means to regularly revisit them to make sure they still make sense from the county’s perspective into the future.
“I think we’re making some long-term decisions that potentially impact the communities that these homes are in. We don’t know what the future holds in store,” commission member Tim O’Connor said, noting the sharing economy, of which services such as AirBnB are a part of, could change in unforeseen ways.
O’Connor worried short-term rentals pose a threat to the viability of local hotels and the jobs they provide. He suggested the county consider a sunset clause for tourist homes. Special-use permits don’t expire on the properties they’re approved for.
“We don’t know what the economy is going to look like in 15 years or 20 years,” he said.
Other members agreed that putting a time limit on tourist homes would be worth considering.
“To me it seems like it might be a good (idea) to look at a sunset clause,” commission member Richard Krapf said.
Consideration of the concept can be rolled into the ongoing comprehensive plan update, planning director Paul Holt said.
Of the tourist homes approved Wednesday, one would be on Ironbound Road near New Town. The other would be on Centerville Road near the Fox Ridge subdivision.
A tourist home is defined in the zoning ordinance as “a dwelling where lodging or lodging and meals are provided for compensation for up to five rooms which are open to transients.”
The commission voted unanimously to approve both special-use permit applications to operate the tourist homes in separate votes. Neither application prompted much discussion individually. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider final approval for both tourist homes Sept. 10.
Ironbound Road tourist home
The tourist home on Ironbound Road would be at 4440 Ironbound Road and would consist of an entire two-bedroom home. The owner of the property would live off site, according to a county staff report.
Though the special-use permit would allow rentals throughout the year, the property owner is only interested in using it as a short-term rental for tourists during the summer months, county planner Jose Ribeiro said. The owner rents the house to College of William and Mary students during the school year. There wouldn’t be any additions made to the home.
No more than six occupants could be in the house at a time, and simultaneous, separate rental contracts would not be permitted. No one spoke during the public hearing held prior to the vote.
Centerville Road tourist home
Approval of the special-use permit for the Centerville Road tourist home would allow short-term rental of a one-bedroom detached accessory apartment to tourists at 6096 Centerville Road. The owner would live in a separate house on the property.
The Board of Supervisors had approved the construction of the apartment in January. At the time, the property owner had plans for his grandmother to live there, but since then it has become unclear exactly when that move-in may occur, and the applicant wants to be able to rent out the space in the meantime, Ribeiro said.
The 748-square-foot apartment has one bedroom and a kitchen. No changes to the size of the building’s footprint would occur. The applicant proposes that up to four people be allowed to rent the apartment at a time.
No simultaneous, separate rental contracts would be allowed. A public hearing was held prior to the commission’s vote, but no one spoke at it.
Jack Jacobs, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_, 757-298-6007,