Public hearings predicted short-term rental problems in Clarke County | Winchester Star

BERRYVILLE – Landlords in rural Clarke County who rent rooms to tenants may soon have to follow certain rules.

At 6:30 p.m. on December 21, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on a proposed short-term residential rental use for the AOC and FOC zoning districts. The lands in these districts are intended to accommodate agriculture, forestry, open spaces and conservation.

Rule changes for country inns and “guesthouses” will also be taken into account.

The proposed changes to the county’s septic system ordinance will be the subject of a separate hearing during the meeting.

Changes to hostel and bed and breakfast rules, however, would require landowners to prove that sewage systems can support the maximum occupancy limits proposed for their accommodations.

Short-term residential rental use would apply to owners of single-family homes who rent rooms to one or more tenants for less than 30 consecutive days.

The total maximum occupancy would be 10 people, including tenants and permanent residents of the house. This total would apply to all structures on the lot, not just the house itself.

Guesthouses could have no more than five bedrooms and no more than 10 guests and residents could occupy the property during room rental, the proposal says.

Renters would not be allowed to stay in tents or RVs, county planning director Brandon Stidham said.

Public gatherings for commercial purposes – musical performances, for example – would also not be allowed on the grounds, he said.

The proposed rules stem from a proliferation of vacation rental units, such as those listed on Airbnb’s website, in recent years, Stidham said.

At a recent supervisors meeting, board chairman David Weiss asked if any complaints about accommodation had been received. Stidham replied that he had heard a few.

“I think we are trying to regulate something because there has been some noise,” said Weiss, who represents the Buckmarsh district.

He speculated that the proposed rules would be difficult to apply.

Procedures are in place to handle rental issues, Weiss said. For example, the sheriff’s office can respond to complaints about noise, and the Department of Health can respond to complaints about sewage systems, he said.

“The main concern (for the implementation of the proposed rules) is the safety” of tenants and permanent occupants, said Matthew Bass, district supervisor of Berryville.

“But it’s hard to develop a foolproof set of rules,” Bass said.

“We are not going to please everyone,” he said.

The changes to the Septic Tank Ordinance are based on technological changes and issues identified by county staff and Virginia Department of Health employees.

According to officials, the most notable change requires inspections whenever entirely new systems are installed and components of existing systems are replaced.

Other changes involve the removal of measures deemed unnecessary or inapplicable.

The hearings will be held in the second floor meeting room of the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center on Chalmers Court.

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