STR Proposal: City Council members attend BAC meeting Oct. 14

At the Bayfront Advisory Council meeting on Tues. Oct 14, the proposed zoning change to create STR overlay areas was on the agenda. Council member Louis Jones started off by explaining the impetus for his Overlay Proposal. He explained that applications for Conditional Use Permits for Short Term Rentals are increasing in all areas of the city where they have never been before. When the City Council reviews the CUP applications, there is often no community input. The purpose of the Overlay would be to restrict STRs to certain areas since having STRs leads to “the deterioration of residential districts.” Since no Ocean Park residents had attended any hearings about the 3 STR applications, he said he assumed that Ocean Park is ok with STRs. BAC member Morgan Ayers pointed out that OPCL had conducted polls and taken a formal vote showing that Ocean Park residents are overwhelmingly opposed to being in the Overlay district. This brought no response. The point was also made that it is precisely this deterioration of a neighborhood character brought on by STR concentration that Ocean Park residents fear. No response was forthcoming. Councilman Jones was also asked directly if he would speak to Ocean Park’s opposition in council discussion since he represents the OP district and has now been informed of the strong opposition. He declined and said it was necessary to wait and see what the Planning Commission put forward. It is unclear why Chesapeake Beach and Baylake Pines were able to be deleted from the Overlay by Mr. Jones in this preliminary period but not Ocean Park.

Director of Planning for the city, Mr. Bobby Tajan answered many questions about the process ahead for the proposal. At some point in the process all property owners will receive a letter concerning the zoning change. Mr. Tajan suggested that residents contact the Planning Commission with their input. “Citizens are encouraged to submit comments to the Planning Commission prior to the public hearing via email to wlandfair@vbgov.com or via United States Postal Service to Bill Landfair, 2875 Sabre Street, Suite 500, Virginia Beach, VA 23452.” Here is a link to the commissioners emails and phone numbers: https://www.vbgov.com/government/departments/planning/boards-commissions-committees/Pages/pc.aspx

Tues. Oct. 20 City Council MeetingCity Council will vote on whether to refer the Overlay Proposal to the Planning Commission
Nov. 4 Planning Commission Meeting Planning Commission Briefing
Dec. 9? Planning Commission MeetingPlanning Commission Public Hearing and Vote
Jan. ? City Council MeetingCity Council Public Comment Forum
Jan.? City Council Meeting City Council Hearing and Vote to approve or deny

He wasn’t able to provide firm dates as recent cancellations had upended the schedule.

Another issue in the discussion was communication between residents and the city. Both councilmen seemed to indicate that emails do not carry much weight. Mr. Wood said that “we get so many emails”. Mr. Jones said that he hadn’t received emails or the OPCL letter about this topic. Mr. Jones noted that he spent an hour on the phone with one constituent who was pro-STR so perhaps phone calls are a more efficient method for him. Mr. Wood and Mr. Jones both said that the most effective way to communicate is to appear in person at a City Council or Planning Commission meeting. Mr. Wood suggested also that one person could speak and a block of residents could sit together and stand up to show strength in numbers. Mr. Wood also noted that some Civic Leagues like the North End have Zoning Committees which follow zoning and land use issues closely for their area.

Bottom Line: concerned residents must go to City Council and Planning Commission hearings in order for their concerns to be heard.

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