, 2015

Tourist home debate continues

by Maggie Somerville

HEATHSVILLE—The vacation rental property question in Northumberland remains unresolved.

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Should owners of vacation rental properties or tourist homes be required to acquire a conditional use permit?

Following discussions June 19, the board voted to hold a public hearing on a newly proposed “250 foot rule.” This new rule would specify that a vacation home rental structure further than 250 feet from its residential neighbor would be permitted by-right. Vacation home rental structures fewer than 250 feet from their residential neighbors would require a conditional use permit.

Tourist homes must continue to obtain a conditional use permit, regardless of their proximity to any residential neighbors.

Although a decision was reached to consider the proposed option, an effective solution to the tourist home debate is still unclear. The debate will continue at the hearing, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 10, at the Courts Building, 220 Judicial Place, Heathsville.

Assistant county administrator Luttrell Tadlock laid out six possible solutions to the long-running rental property debate. In the end, the board unanimously agreed to advertise what Tadlock termed the “250-foot rule” for hearing.

“Basically, what that does is it protects those that are in close proximity to a proposed vacation home rental, but it gives those a little more flexibility that are greater than 250 feet,” said Tadlock.

The board meeting on the tourist home decision remained civil until board chairman Ronald Jett called forward Catherine Bennett, who had sent an email to county administrator Kenneth Eades earlier in the week. The email addressed the proposed changes to definitions and uses of rental properties in the county ordinance. Jett called the letter “sarcastic” and said Bennett had “a low level of mentality and poor thinking.”

“I apologize if the letter upset you, but this upsets me greatly,” Bennett responded.

She rents her property near Indian Creek Yacht Club on a short- and long-term basis. In response to chairman Jett’s assertion that the board was taking every citizen’s concerns into consideration, Bennett replied, “I think that it’s a taking, it’s a government expansion, and you’re forcing the taxes on the citizens of this county who don’t need more taxes.”

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