Beaches and waterways commission to tackle ‘event homes’ issue

A gathering along Sandfiddler Road brought out people dressed to the nines and the need to park along the road on a recent weekend. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]
A gathering along Sandfiddler Road brought out people dressed to the nines and the need to park along the road on a recent weekend. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

SANDBRIDGE – Ongoing inquiry into whether Virginia Beach should regulate the rise of event homes, big houses built to hold gatherings amid rental-friendly yet residentially-zoned Sandbridge, is now in the hands of a commission that wrote the beach management plan and tackled issues such as dredging.

The city council on Tuesday, April 19, tasked the Beaches and Waterways Commission with studying the matter and returning a recommendation to the city council within 120 days. The decision to set this in motion came over a no vote by Councilmember Rosemary Wilson, at large, who serves as one of the council liaisons to the commission.

“I don’t think the Beaches and Waterways Commission was the right place for it,” she said after the meeting, explaining that the issue involves zoning, among other things. “Their job is to look at dredging, erosion, things with the waterways.”

Of note to the Princess Anne District: the long-serving chairman of the committee, Tom Fraim, is a Sandbridge resident who lives near some event homes.

However, records and information provided by the city clerk’s office show that the commission, which has been largely adjourned over the past two years, has not had a member representing the Princess Anne District since 2013, though the body’s charter requires such representation.

The commission has two Beach District representatives, according to a roster provided by the clerk’s office. One of them was reappointed to a three-year term during the meeting in which the council gave the commission its new task.

In an interview, Fraim said the commission membership may shift seats, with him moving from an at-large position to the Princess Anne District seat.

“I think we’re a pretty natural fit,” he said, adding that the commission may request additional appointments or support to ensure issues such as zoning are properly addressed.

He also noted that the issue is greater than Sandbridge.

“The issues are around the city,” he said. “They’re not just in Sandbridge. Sandbridge is the one that hit the tipping point, the critical mass, first.”

Fraim also said there has been discussion of considering other issues, such as Airbnb rentals. He and other officials have stressed in interviews that the aim of the discussion are not to limit the general rental community in Sandbridge, and he said that it was important to hear from the business community as well as residents.

City officials for months had been working with stakeholders in Sandbridge to discuss draft language for regulations to govern the homes, but the tasking of the  commission — it came as a surprise to some in Sandbridge — signals desire for a wider look.

“This will effect all residentially-zoned properties in the cty,” said City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District. Henley said in an interview that Sandbridge’s concerns will be considered in any recommendation.

Ed. note — The Independent News has been covering the issue since last summer. An archive of the previous newspaper stories about event homes can be found by clicking on this link.

© Pungo Publishing Co. LLC

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