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Short term rentals   

Current and History

LACA is on record as not opposing Short Term Rentals but as advocating for stated and practical occupancy limits for environmental and safety reasons.

From our 2023 Member Survey:

Over 90% of respondents indicated that they support  ordinances to limit STRs to the capacity permitted in the VDH septic permit, and limiting bedrooms to those defined in the building code of VA.


Short Term Rentals were occurring at Lake Anna well before VRBO, VACASA, and others were a thing.  Mostly folks who owned weekend places and wanted to subsidize their expenses, utilized local real estate organizations to rent their places, all parties showing a vested interest in Lake Anna and their clients.  The landscape has changed for vacation rentals on the lake.  In many cases,  businesses have moved in purchasing homes and making them available as Short Term Vacation Rentals.  As well, the advent of a number of worldwide booking and management sites makes easy the renting of second-homes by individuals around the lake.  So the secret is out and it is a pretty big business.   

Many say that this is good for the economies of the towns and communities around the Lake and this is true.  Some focus on the loss of the quiet old Lake Anna with lower lake and road traffic and perhaps quieter neighborhoods and common areas, the reason they came here to start with.  Others think about the septic system efficiency and longevity, and the safety issues, both of which are at risk from over crowding of rental units.  

One thing everyone has to agree on is that there are significantly increasing numbers of Short Term Vacation Rentals in neighborhoods surrounding Lake Anna. 

Both Spotsylvania County and Louisa County have discussed and in some form taken up the topic of Short Term Rentals in residential neighborhoods over the last few years.  Below you will find information on each counties activities surrounding whether or not to regulate Short Term Rentals in residential neighborhoods, and if so how.

Louisa County

September 22, 2023  On September 14, 2023, the Planning Commission heard comments from the public, deliberated and created an Ordinance which will be sent to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration.  Tammy Purcell reported in Engage Louisa "In a 6-1 vote, commissioners recommended that supervisors require STR owners in most residential zoning (R-1, R-2), inside or outside of growth areas, to obtain a Conditional Use Permit. The CUP process typically requires a public hearing in front of the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors and an up-or-down vote by the board. Louisa District Commissioner Manning Woodward was the only member to oppose the substitute proposal."   

This recommendation is a bit of a surprise and will go to the Board of Supervisors who will establish a schedule for taking up the matter.  From discussions with Chairman Adams, I believe this will happen fairly soon, with a public hearing possibly being scheduled in  October, 2023.

LACA's position on the matter remains the same, desiring that STR's be added to the code as a legal use in R1 and R2 neighborhoods  with some restrictions, including occupancy limits, that protect citizens safety and the environment while also keeping neighborhoods residential, as clearly intended in the current county code.  Through discussions with our members and elected officials, we have established what we believe to be minimal requirements to achieve this objective.  They Are:

  • Owner shall be required to register annually
  • Owner shall Apply and submit a Property Management Plan, including VDH Permit, Certificate of Occupancy, etc.
  • Owner must provide info including current Louisa County Code Chapters 51, 62 to renters
  • Occupancy shall be limited to two (2) transient visitors per bedroom based on VDH Septic permit, or for those on public sewer, the Certificate of Occupancy
  • Safety equipment shall be provided and maintained in accordance with applicable building code
  • Events, associated rentals, Special Occasion Facilities, and related uses are prohibited without a Conditional Use Permit
  • Failure to comply with any of the above provisions shall result in a monetary penalty
  • Multiple violations will prohibit property from being registered and offered as an STR

Please let the members of the Board of Supervisors know your thoughts and opinions on this matter.  Write an email to them and plan to attend the public hearing when it is scheduled to weigh in on this important regulation.

May - September 2023  The County is again working to put some form of ordinance in place to get a handle on Short Term Rentals (STR) in Louisa County.  In the spring the Board of Supervisors requested that the Planning Commission and Community Development staff draft a new Ordinance for their review and deliberation.   The Draft can be found HERE. The most recent conversations among the Commissioners have ranged from some suggesting that it should be the responsibility of HOAs and POAs to limit the practice in their neighborhoods, to discussions surrounding whether STR’s are legal to operate in R1 and R2 zoning under the current county code. I have written a News Letter article about this that will be published shortly that further explores this issue.  Suffice it to say that Short Term Rentals are not currently in the code and therefore are not a specified permitted use of a house in R1 or R2 zoned neighborhoods in the county. 

Everyone agrees that the code should be modified to address this issue, and the new motivation to get an ordinance in place is being driven partially by this issue in the County Code.  From the reading of the draft, and discussions with Board members, both the Commission and the Board do not seem to be too troubled by the issue that emanate from the overcrowding of STRs.  I say this because other jurisdictions, those surrounding Smith Mountain Lake for one, have dealt with this issue and inserted specific occupancy numbers in their Ordinances.  One thing we know from experience is that when there is an issue with an STR in a neighborhood, more times than not it occurs when the house is grossly over occupied.  Nevertheless, as you can see if you linked to the Draft above the Planning Commission is currently not including specific language to regulate occupancy, in neighborhoods where expectations regarding occupancy should be able to be relied on. 

LACA believes that adding STR’s as a legal use in R1 and R2 neighborhoods is a valid objective of the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors but should only be accomplished with occupancy limits that protect citizens safety and the environment, while also keeping neighborhoods residential, as clearly intended in the current county code.

If this common-sense approach cannot be agreed to by the Board, perhaps the answer should be to simply insert the language missing to complete the addition of "Short Term Vacation Rentals" in the code, and requiring a Conditional Use Permit to be obtained prior to hosting this commercial business activity in R1 and R2 residential neighborhoods.

The Planning Commission held a Public Hearing on September 14 at 7:00 pm.

Beyond the Planning Commission Public Hearing, the Board of Supervisors is expected to take up the draft ordinance in October, and will have a Public Hearing at a date to be announced.  Again, those with opinions on this important issue for the Lake should plan to attend these and other BOS meetings to speak during every Public Comment period, letting their opinions known.

2022  Prior to this recent activity in Louisa, there was an ordinance drafted and a Guidelines Document produced in 2022 by the Planning Commission and provided to the Board of Supervisors.  The Board went through most of the process including public hearings and then abruptly cancelled the Public Hearing and tabled the matter.  The message was that the State Legislature was going to take the matter up, and Virginia being a "Dillon Rule" state, something done at the County level may be overruled by any passed State legislation.   The County did form a Task Force to continue to discuss aspects of necessary regulations, and I believe a draft came out of this effort.  There was strong, vocal support from mostly those that did not want anything to change, to those that want the negative affects they claim are imposed on their neighborhoods by overcrowded rental homes to be reigned in, mostly through regulations that limit occupancy.  The issue has been tabled until the activity described above that began in May of 2023.  

Spotsylvania County

 July 2023  Most recently in Spotsylvania County, the Board of Supervisors asked the Community Development Staff to draft a Short Term Rental Ordinance.  This draft, which can be read HERE,  was presented to the Board in a June meeting where it was discussed. There was no support among any of the Supervisors, excepting those whose districts include the lake, for advancing the issue any further forward.  Supervisors Lane and Marshal did request and received permission from the rest of the Board to hold a community meeting to discuss the issue further and bring the results of that back to the BOS.  Nothing has been done towards that end to date.

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