Proposed changes to Albemarle County regulations for homestays, such as Airbnb, have been delayed.
At its meeting Wednesday, the county Board of Supervisors deferred the proposed ordinance to its Aug. 7 meeting to make changes regarding parking, who is required to be present during rentals and when accessory structures can be used for homestays.
Since 2017, Albemarle officials have been looking at possible changes to the county’s zoning ordinance regarding bed and breakfasts and transient lodging rentals, which are now being referred to as homestays.
Homestays are rentals of guestrooms for fewer than 30 consecutive days. Longer consecutive rentals are not governed by these regulations.
Since 2004, the county has approved 77 applications in the rural areas zoning districts and 24 in the residential zoning districts, and has received 41 complaints to-date.
Amelia McCulley, the county’s deputy director of community development, said the primary use of these properties is as a residence.
“Before and after and during a homestay, the expectation is it’s zoned for residential use, it’s a residence — that’s intended to be the ongoing regular use of the property,” she said. “The homestay is the accessory use, and that’s just so important to how this continues to retain the character and integrity of the residential neighborhoods. “
The county is considering changes that would treat residentially zoned lots and rural-area lots smaller than 5 acres the same. Both types of properties would be limited to two guestrooms for rent in single-family detached homes.
On properties that are 5 acres or larger in the rural area, no more than five guestrooms would be allowed. Those properties would be allowed a second homestay use on the property.
An owner or manager would still have to reside on the property for 180 days out of the year on any type of property, and be present during rentals.
Another proposed change would be to allow whole-house rentals only on properties that are 5 acres or larger in the rural area. Whole-house rentals would be limited to a maximum allowance of seven days per month and 45 total days per year.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel said she wants an owner to be present for rentals, not a “resident manager.”
“For me, I don’t even know what that means, other than it allows someone to come in and purchase a house and use it exclusively for a homestay and put a residential manager in there,” she said. “That means they’re not the owner.”
The proposed ordinance states that parking, which has been a concern of neighbors, must be on the property, not on the street.
The county code, however, has exceptions for certain kinds of parking, which has confused some residents.
Bart Svoboda, the county’s zoning administrator, said he could change the proposed ordinance to clarify that homestays are not subject to the exemptions.
To try to prevent new accessory structures from being built for Airbnb use, Supervisor Ann H. Mallek asked if the ordinance could state that it had to be an existing building for five years before it could be used as a homestay.
County staff said a requirement could be added to the proposed ordinance that the accessory structure be in existence on the date of adoption of the proposed ordinance to be used for homestays.
“We have to know that we can’t try to think of certain things that ultimately can’t be regulated and use this as a device to try to do that,” board Chairman Ned Gallaway said. “There has to be some consideration of the positives that come from it.”
Changes that are less restrictive than what is advertised could still be made to the proposed ordinance by the board before the August vote.
Other proposed changes to address compliance issues and close the gap between properties that are permitted to be used as homestays and those that are not also will be coming before the board in August.