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Town of Herndon Explores Ways to Regulate Airbnb-Style Rentals

In an effort to break its silence on regulating short-term rentals through websites like Airbnb, Town of Herndon officials are contemplating ways to regulate the growing market, which often pits homeowners seeking to make a profit against neighbors seeking to control noise and maintain safety.

The town’s planning commission is considering a zoning ordinance change that would allow residents to rent out their entire home for up to 90 days per year, so long as occupants are limited to six adults and parking is available. In return, residents must buy a $200 permit, which is active for two years, and undergo a property inspection. No restrictions on renting a room or portion of the property are imposed so long as the operator lives in the residence.

Efforts to regulate the burgeoning industry were set into motion last year when the state’s General Assembly approved legislation allowing localities to regulate short-term rentals. Just last week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved its own set of regulations. After feedback from the public, the board made its regulations more restrictive by scaling back its definition of short-term rentals from a maximum of 90 days to 60 days.

Preliminary conversations about ways to oversee short-term rentals have begun at Reston Association. However, no formal plans or guidelines have been introduced yet.

The Town of Herndon’s proposal was modeled after Fairfax County’s plan, David Stromberg, the town’s zoning administrator told Reston Now. Yesterday’s public hearing on the proposal will continue during the planning commission’s September meeting. Changes may be proposed based on feedback from the public, he said.

“Nothing has been on the books. We’re trying to do regulations appropriately so that people who are doing short-term rentals can get their permits,” Stromberg said. “And if there are problems, we can do enforcement if necessary.”

It’s unclear how much revenue permits could generate for the town. Other area jurisdictions like Arlington County limited short-term rentals to 180 days while Alexandria has no limit.

Photo via Airbnb

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Monday Morning Notes

Airbnb no longer up in the air — If you’re looking to make your place into an Airbnb, you might have to buy a $200 two-year permit to rent out your house for up to 60 days a year. [The Washington Post]

Lifeguards sought at Reston Community Center — Positions are open at the center for water safety instructors and lifeguards. The positions pay between $11 to $20.77 an hour.  [Reston Community Center]

Drawing class tonight — Reston Regional Library is hosting a class on how to draw your favorite cartoon. The event is open to attendees between the age of 10 and 18. [Reston Regional Library]

Nearby: Overnight shooting — Two juveniles were shot Sunday night in McLean. One of the victims died and another remains in the hospital. [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Thursday Morning Notes

It’s not just Amazon — Apple is considering Northern Virginia for 20,000 jobs, in what could be the company third major U.S. hub. The governor pitched three sites: Tysons Corner, Loudoun and Crystal City. [The Washington Post]

What’s coming to your neighborhood — Zoning changes are afoot, including plans to expand areas where community gardens are allowed and how Airbnb and other short-term lodging options are regulated. Informational sessions are planned in the coming weeks. [Fairfax County Government]

Member Services closed for part of the day — Reston Association’s member services department will be closed today from 1 to 2:30 p.m. to allow staff to attend a session by local police about workplace violence. [Reston Association]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Community Meeting on Short-Term Rental Zoning Rules Set for Reston

As Fairfax County considers developing regulations to govern the use of short-term rentals (e.g., Airbnb), three community meetings — including one in Reston — have been scheduled to gather community input.

The community meeting in Reston will be held Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m. at the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive). Additional meetings are slated for Alexandria on Sept. 13 and McLean on Sept. 25.

Community members are also invited to submit their input in an online survey, which is available through the end of August.

Currently in Fairfax County, short-term rentals — properties rented for less than 30 days at a time — are only allowed with approval of a special exception by the Board of Supervisors to classify a home as a bed and breakfast. In Reston, where residents must follow county laws related to the practice, short-term rentals have been the source of debate. Most recently, at the May meeting of the Reston Association Board of Directors, short-term rentals at a home on Trails Edge Lane were the topic of controversy.

At that meeting, the Board decided to consider amending its governing documents to clarify the RA’s position on homesharing, to strengthen its standing in the effort to stop violations of county rules.

This county’s proposed zoning rules for short-term rentals may address issues including where the rentals will be allowed in the county, how often they can be rented out, what types of properties can be rented out, and how many people will be allowed to stay in a property at any one time.

According to information provided by the county:

The county is considering the regulations as a result of new state law passed this year that allows localities to require registration of short-term rentals. The Board of Supervisors directed county staff to initiate an analysis of STRs and propose draft zoning regulations.

Ultimately, the board will decide whether to adopt the new rules, and both the Planning Commission and board will hold public hearings on the zoning rules before any action is taken. No public hearing dates have been scheduled at this time. Any additional meetings and the future public hearing dates will be posted on the short-term rental webpage.

To get more information or to offer feedback, contact the county’s Zoning Ordinance Administration Division by email or call 703-324-1314.

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Friday Morning Notes

Hook Road Project Info Session  Anyone interested in learning about the Hook Road Recreation Area project and the forming of a working group may attend an information session on Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at Reston Association headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). Email [email protected] for more about serving on the working group. [Reston Association]

Third Outreach Session on Bikeshare Announced — The Virginia Department of Transportation has announced a third public outreach event to gather community input on the proposed sites for Capital Bikeshare expansion in Reston. It will be Saturday, Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Reston Farmers Market. [VDOT]

Aquatics Center To Close for Annual Maintenance — The Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center at Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road) will be closed from Aug. 19 to Sept. 15. It is scheduled to reopen at noon Sept. 16. [Reston Community Center]

County Short-Term Rental Survey Ongoing — Fairfax County is developing regulations to govern the use of short-term rentals (e.g., Airbnb). It is gathering community input through Aug. 31. [Fairfax County/Survey Monkey]

Column: Virginia Should Not Pay for ‘Skins Stadium — Regular ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot wrote this week about how the costs of bringing a new Washington Redskins home field to Virginia would far outweigh the benefits for taxpayers. [ARLnow]

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County Moving Forward With Home-Sharing Regulations, Seeks Feedback

It’s late at night and a resident pulls into their cul-de-sac after a long evening at work. Once they turn into their street, they find their block crowded for the umpteenth time with unfamiliar cars, followed by a new group of people temporarily staying in their neighbor’s home for a couple of days.

How would you react?

The scenario above describes the situation that has been increasingly reported throughout Reston, as more residents have begun to rent out their homes for profit over short periods of time through services such as Airbnb, Homeaway and Roomarama.

Fairfax County is currently in the process of developing stricter regulations for residents who wish to rent out their homes through such services. The County is looking for feedback on what residents think about the proposed regulations.

As of July 1, Virginia state law will give local governments the authority to require registration for these rentals.

According to the survey, the proposal would address:

  • Where these rentals would be allowed in the county
  • How often they could be rented out
  • What types of properties could be rented out
  • How many people would be allowed to stay in a property at any one time

If you’d be interested in participating in the survey, fill it out here.

Reston Association is making efforts to clamp down on those whose rental habits might be a disturbance to their neighbors. Currently, following County legislation, only those who own single-family homes are allowed to rent their space for less than 30 days.

At a community feedback meeting at Reston Association headquarters Wednesday evening, the home-sharing issue was named as a challenge RA will face going forward.

“I view this as one of the greatest threats to the way we live here in Reston,” said Rick Hamilton, of the Polo Fields cluster. “From the description of what goes on in the one [discussed at the May 26 RA meeting], that is frightening.”

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RA Board Unanimously Votes to Explore Strengthening Regulations on Airbnb-Type Rentals

At Thursday night’s meeting, the Reston Association Board of Directors voted to explore amending the association’s covenants to clarify and strengthen rules surrounding whether residents are permitted to rent out their homes temporarily to visitors, such as through sites like Airbnb.com.

Airbnb has become a hot topic throughout Fairfax County over the past year. County officials have sought to remind residents of the laws regarding short-term rentals of less than 30 days. Special permits must be obtained for operating one’s home much like a bed and breakfast, and for the most part, only single-family homes are allowed to do so, and not attached homes such as apartments, condos or townhomes.

Reston Association has previously mandated that, as part of the county, residents follow the county laws. However, the RA has been receiving some complaints about residents that have been renting out their homes on Airbnb anyway.

In particular, several letters have been received about a home on Trails Edge Lane. Complaints have alleged that not only have the owners been renting out parts of the home for as little as one day–at rates as low as $28 per night–but they have been exceeding maximum safe occupancy limits, sometimes putting multiple renters to a room, and renting out three to four rooms in a single home at the same time.

According to RA documents, the current owners purchased the home in question in January of 2016, and the complaints began just a few months later.

At first, documents indicate RA staff spoke with the homeowners, who agreed to abide by the county’s rules and only rent out the home for periods of longer than 30 days, which would not violate the county’s rules against “short-term” rentals.

It wasn’t long before complaints began coming in again, though, this time alleging that the homeowners were packing the house to the point of maxing out safe occupancy guidelines, and congesting the Trails Edge Lane cul-de-sac with parked vehicles that appeared to belong to the renters, edging out available parking for neighbors.

When RA staff started investigating the complaints, they became aware that the homeowner had recently filed an official application with the county to build a second dwelling unit on the property.

As they explored how a second unit on the homeowner’s property would impact surrounding residents, they said they could see that neighbors were unhappy.

“Pursuant to [the Zoning Ordinance], permit applications may only be approved if the proposed use will be harmonious with and will not adversely affect the use of neighboring properties. Based on the reports provided to us by the adjacent and nearby neighbors of the applicant, overwhelmingly indicating that their use and enjoyment of their properties has been negatively impacted, it is our position that the proposed use fails to meet this standard,” the RA staff members wrote in their notes to the Board of Directors.

The notes went on to state that neighbors had indicated there would often be as many as four to five additional cars parked on the cul-de-sac at a time, and that some parents with young children no longer felt it was safe to allow their children to play outside unsupervised, as they had long done in the past.

In conclusion, the staff members’ notes said they did not recommend approval of the application, and they believed that adding a second dwelling unit on the land would be detrimental to neighbors’ quality of life.

In an interesting twist, Ken Chadwick, general counsel to the RA Board, announced during Thursday’s meeting that the homeowner had just withdrawn his application for the additional dwelling unit.

Nonetheless, Chadwick said the whole issue had brought to light many problems with the enforcing of short-term rentals of Reston homes, and he suggested that Reston’s covenants needed to be updated to clarify the association’s position.

“We’re relying on the county code at this point, under our documents, to enforce any of the short-term rentals [regulations], but our documents do not have any provisions in them that, in and of themselves, independently, could be enforced,” Chadwick told board members.

Chadwick explained that in situations such as this, action depended on the county to first issue an official violation to the homeowner, and that allowed Reston Association to assist in its enforcement. Chadwick did report that he had been notified that an official violation was in the process of being sent to the homeowner by the county.

One resident addressed the Board during the meeting, adding that he was speaking on behalf of other residents as well, to state that he was glad to hear that the homeowner had withdrawn his application to put an accessory dwelling unit on his property to make room for more occupants, but that many are concerned he will continue to operate his business, which he categorized as “basically, what amounts to a hotel, on a residential street,” he said.

Another resident spoke up, providing print-outs to show that the homeowner had three of the bedrooms in his single-family home up for rental on Airbnb at the very moment, and that in the listings the homeowner was referring to the home as a “group home” in a “shared community.”

Board members asked Chadwick what could be done, and he said that evidence of all the regulations the homeowner is violating would need to be gathered, and then they could possibly be filed with the county and they could obtain a temporary injunction or conjunctive relief against the homeowner to prohibit further renting of the property while more “long-term solutions” are explored.

In addition, board members unanimously voted to have CEO Cate Fulkerson write an official letter on behalf of the Board expressing the association’s “grave concern.”

Board members also voted to initiate the process of exploring how to amend governing documents to clarify the RA’s position on “homesharing.”

A deadline of one week was placed on the directive, by which staff agreed to present a report educating the Board on their options for such an amendment.

See full footage of the discussion in the RA’s YouTube video of Thursday’s meeting.

 

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