2024 Brings Operational Requirements for Louisa STR’s
What this mean for those who rent their houses and those who live around them?
I requested information from Louisa County that I could use to create a practical guide for operating and managing issues under the STR ordinance passed in 2023. The ordinance passed with an effective date of January 1, 2024, and I expect there are those who rent their homes that may not have gotten word and/or have not yet taken steps to comply with the ordinance. I also wanted to understand, given the restrictions contained in the new ordinance, how citizens who experience violations of the ordinance are to handle those with the County. I want to thank Cindy King, Community Engagement Manager for Louisa County, who was very helpful in responding to my questions and in fact provided me with what I believe to be a succinct guide to how renters and neighbors can manage under the new ordinance. What follows is her response:
Short-term rentals (STRs) offer the area numerous tourism-related benefits, but as the number of these rentals have grown around Lake Anna, so has concern from neighboring property owners. Following a great deal of citizen input, the formation of a county-led stakeholder workgroup, and public hearings, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance this past October intended to minimally impact responsible STR owners while increasing visitor safety and guarding community interests.
While not all STRs in Louisa County are affected by this new ordinance, the majority of waterfront rentals and rentals in waterfront communities will be required to follow new regulations. This set of regulations, effective January 1, 2024, are as follows:
How to satisfy this requirement: Existing STR owners most likely have already completed registration through the Commissioner of Revenue’s Office. For new owners or STR operators needing to register, they may complete the “Transient Occupancy Tax Contact Information Form” by January 1, 2024. STR owners will also need to provide contact information to any applicable HOAs/POAs. This registration allows for contact information to easily be retrieved, including in the event of an emergency.
How to satisfy this requirement: STR owners may link to this information on the county website from their rental agreements or include copies in their rental agreements executed on and after January 1, 2024. This requirement ensures the tenants have been given notice of how to handle noise and solid waste during their stay.
How to satisfy this requirement: This notification may be included in the rental agreement or in a confirmation message regarding the rental. These notifications apply to rentals on or after January 1, 2024. This requirement will help prevent unauthorized special occasion facilities.
How to satisfy this requirement: To maintain safety for tenants and the community, short-term rental (STR) owners must check their permits with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and follow all stated requirements. All VDH permit regulations need to be met by January 1, 2024. Additionally, all buildings must meet the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) standards. The Community Development issues a Certificate of Occupancy for each property, and all properties must comply with these certificates by January 1, 2024.
How to satisfy this requirement: STR owners that cannot meet the above requirements by January 1, 2024 should contact the Community Development department about a Conditional Use Permit (CUP).
STR operators can find additional information on the county’s website, louisacounty.gov.
For residents concerned about neighboring STR properties that may not comply with these new requirements, the ordinance and standard county processes do provide reporting options. Any neighbor who feels one or more of these restrictions are not being addressed (building code violations, safe occupancy per VDH, event rentals, etc.), may report a potential code violation through the “Report an Issue” feature on louisacounty.gov or contact the Community Development department. The Report an Issue, Report a Potential Code Violation form will allow the submitting party to receive updates. This section of the website also offers a link to submit an issue anonymously, however as submissions through that option are anonymous, updates cannot be provided. The Louisa County Sheriff’s Office may be called for noise complaints.
From our 2023 Member Survey:
COUNTY BOS PASSES STR ORDINANCE
BOS held public hearing on October 2, 2023 and in a vote of 5 to 2 voted to enact an ordinance adding Short Term Rentals to R1 and R2 districts "By-Right" with the following restrictions. The highlights are changes made to the Draft by the Board. Once the ordinance is published, we will provide the actual text in our library.
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.
The Public Hearing is set for October 2, 2023 at 6:00 PM Please review the information below and attend the meeting to let you supervisors know your position on this important matter for the Lake.
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:
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.
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.