After a lengthy public comment period at Tuesday night’s regular monthly Board Meeting, the Northampton Board of Supervisors voted to postpone action on a new ordinance regulating short term rentals(STRs).
13 individuals spoke against the action, which proposed requiring a minor special use permit for new STRs and the purchase of a business license annually. Other regulations included certain safety improvements to properties.
Objections to the zoning text amendment centered around the requirement of the Special Use Permit, which commenters feared would enable disgruntled neighbors to derail projects. Many who spoke said STRs were an important part of their financial well being.
“My wife and I both work out of Norfolk and spend hours each day driving across the Bridge,” said Jake Floyd of Machipongo. “I can count on one hand the number of people in my high school class who stayed here and are successful. The rest have all left.”
Floyd went on to talk about how he built a small one room guest house on his property, which he said shows promise to support his family. He said STRs were a key part of his long term plan.
“My concern is, just the language seems too squishy… It’s based on language like ‘if it will diminish the character of the neighborhood,’ what does that mean?” said Thomas Haney, who said he was able to leave his job across the bay with income from an STR and start an oyster company. “Letters will be sent to adjacent landowners… so for me that seems like an opportunity for them to object and try to stop it.”
But not everyone agreed. A handful of County residents spoke about the issues they see with unregulated STRs changing the nature of their neighborhoods.
“My rights are also being restricted, my right to privacy,” said Cheryl Dalessio of Eastville. “I had a short term rental for six months on my block. She was told please tell the people who are renting not to walk on our private property. Same day, the whole family was walking down, smoking and drinking with kids and dogs. I don’t want to be a police woman.”
After the public comment period, the Supervisors decided they needed more time to consider some of the changes.
“There are some bad actors in the world, who allow bad things to happen in their houses,” said John Coker, explaining the board’s intentions. “What we are trying to do is in the future make sure that doesn’t happen, that we keep our County a good place to live in.”
The Board will revisit the issue at its January meeting.