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A man who wants to open a house in Queens Lake to tourists for short stays without supervision did not get his way Tuesday at a York County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Jonathan Westbrook asked the county to allow him to use the house at 104 Valor Court as a place for tourists to stay for three days to two weeks at a time.
The board was incredulous of Westbrook’s claims he would vet the tourists to ensure the safety of surrounding residents and the operation would not produce excess noise or traffic.
Two citizens spoke out against Westbrook’s proposal. Sylvia Martin, who lives next-door to the house, said she saw animals associated with the tourists defecating on yards around the house. She also said she was concerned allowing the house to operate as a tourist home could attract unsavory individuals to the neighborhood.
Westbrook operated the house as a tourist home last year. When the county realized what was going on, it told him he would need to apply for a special-use permit to use the house in such a manner. The board’s vote Tuesday rejected his application for a permit.
“This is a [house] that was built very clearly to be used as a residence and not a business,” Supervisor Thomas Shepperd (District 5) said.
Shepperd, who voted no, said he received “quite a few” emails from residents concerned about the home being used as a tourist house.
Supervisors Donald Wiggins (District 3) and Sheila Noll (District 2) both said they could not support the application if the neighbors did not agree. Supervisor George Hrichak (District 4), the lone yes vote, suggested allowing Westbrook to operate the home as a tourist house on a one-year provisional basis.
Gerard Neary, a resident of the Cobble Creek neighborhood, said a house next-door to his home was used for an identical purpose several years ago. That ended when federal agents raided the home and arrested two people for funneling drugs and money though the property. He said investigators told him “a lot of drugs and money [was] changing hands there.”
“The owner spelled out his intent, but it never panned out that way,” Neary said of the Cobble Creek tourist home.
Noll and Hrichak both called the tourist home an “interesting concept.” Westbrook said the house would operate like a vacation rental, where families could stay. He compared the situation to a rental on the Outer Banks.
The permit would have limited the house to a maximum of six people, with no more than three vehicles. The house could have operated year round.
Westbrook said he stopped operating the property as a tourist home when he filed the application for the permit. He said he charges a “fairly good premium” to guests when they register with the home to ensure they do not trash it.
“We’ve never had an issue with a complaint or damage to the property,” he said. “A few weeks before I submitted, I went around to neighbors adjacent to the house and there were no issues.”
York County Zoning Administrator Mark Carter said the county’s staff opposed the application because there would be no on-site management of guests and the commercial use of the property is contrary to the residential nature of the neighborhood.
“It’s not a tourist area,” he said, noting how bed and breakfasts operate in places less quiet than Queens Lake.
Supervisor Walt Zaremba (District 1), whose district includes Queens Lake, was absent from the meeting and did not cast a vote.