The Planning Commission reviewed a request for a special use permit Wednesday that would allow Joanne Arnall to operate her late mother’s home at 131 Winston Drive as a tourist rental. The commission voted 6-0-1 with Commissioner Robin Bledsoe (Jamestown) absent not to recommend the plan, citing neighborhood restrictions that have been in place since 1960 that disallow tourist rentals.
The vote came after a public hearing during which only the homeowner spoke.
The house, off Jamestown Road behind the Colony Square shopping center, is in a neighborhood that does not allow homes to be rented to tourists, as it is considered a commercial operation. In October, the county received a complaint about the rental home that Arnall and her siblings inherited.
Following the complaint, Arnall submitted an application to the county to keep the property open as a rental home for tourists. She also sent out letters to her neighbors in an effort to gain support to have the restrictions changed to allow rentals.
Arnall said she sent letters to 63 nearby homeowners and received responses from 24 homeowners, or 38 percent. Her request received 12 “positive” responses, nine respondents who had no opinion, and two in opposition. She would have needed the support of 51 percent of the neighbors to change the neighborhood’s restrictions.
She told the commissioners Wednesday she had become exhausted with the process and had no immediate plans to further pursue changes to the restrictions.
Many of the surrounding homeowners do not live in their properties, according to a staff memo. Arnall said Wednesday some of the homes are rented out to college students, which she said causes a greater disturbance to the neighborhood than her tourist rental. Her family prefers not to rent the home long term, and appreciates the opportunity to come visit on occasion. Arnall’s brother lives next door to the home and has no plans to move, she said.
Arnall said she and her siblings do not yet want to part with their mother’s home, but cannot afford to keep it without renting it out. If they cannot rent to tourists, her family has considered offering short-term rentals to college professors or military service members. That route garnered more support from the commission because it would not require a special use permit.
“The option with longer-term rentals gives you an additional opening or route to go with the property, but I also believe it would not be in the best interest of the citizens if we were to recommend approval of this special use permit when it is in direct conflict with restrictive covenants that govern the neighborhood,” said Chairman Rich Krapf (Powhatan).
If the county does decide to issue a special use permit against the neighborhood restrictions, surrounding residents would only be able to seek legal relief if the rental becomes an annoyance.
The commission’s recommendation against a permit for the tourist rental will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors, which will also host a public hearing before making the final call.
The board, in the past, has voted to allow in-home businesses that go against neighborhood restrictions. A homeowner was given a permit last year to operate an in-home daycare for one year; she has since successfully had her neighborhood’s restrictions changed and requested an extended permit.
County Attorney Leo Rogers said in 2009 voting to approve plans against neighborhood restrictions “makes no practical sense and runs afoul of public policy” after the board voted to approve an in-home daycare against neighborhood rules. The Planning Commission heeded Roger’s advice and referenced his 2009 memo about private restrictions when voting against the tourist home.
The supervisors’ discussion on the tourist rental on Winston Drive is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 12.