BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
COURTHOUSE – The commission asked to recommend rules to govern so-called event houses will hold a series of public meetings in July to seek comment on a draft version of a resolution the group may send to the city council.
The meetings will be held beginning on Monday, July 18, culminating in a meeting at 7 p.m., Friday, July 22 at Sandbridge Community Chapel United Methodist Church. [A full list appears at the end of this story.]
Event homes, generally mansions rented out for special events such as weddings, have become an increasingly divisive issue in Sandbridge, where a number of the homes have been built and marketed for events in recent years.
The Sandbridge Beach Civic League on Monday, June 20, voted in support of disallowing any events in the community. However, there is disagreement about this position within the community, and the vote represents one voice in a wider issue involving the use of residential property throughout the city.
“Everything zoned residential will be impacted by it,” said City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District, during an interview on Tuesday, June 28. The district includes Sandbridge, but Henley said citizens throughout Virginia Beach should be aware the potential change the resolution represents.
“Everybody needs to understand what this does,” she said.
As it now stands, the draft would allow “limited rentals of homes for the purposes of having large events in residential neighborhoods, while preserving the predominantly residential character of the neighborhood.”
It would find that homes mainly used for events are commercial which means they are disruptive and incompatible with surrounding homes. The resolution seeks to minimize the impact of commercial uses of residential property within residential areas.
“Event functions” are defined as events such as weddings, receptions or other events at which there are more than 50 people, according to the draft.
The property in question is advertised or “held out” as a destination for gatherings.
A permit would be required for each event two months in advance, along with a $200 processing fee. Other requirements include defining how litter, parking and other issues will be handled and notification of neighbors. A point of contact responsible for compliance also would be needed – and would be on site during the event.
Violations of the requirements could result in a fine of $250 to $1,000.
A change to zoning code is needed to regulate rentals of houses for large events, according to an earlier draft written by city staff this past fall. It would not regulate normal family gatherings or parties at the family’s own home, officials said at the time.
The Sandbridge Beach Civic League in June 2015 appealed to the city council for help to solve a problem of “houses being rented for events, which are not compatible with a residential community,” according to a letter written then by Joan Davis, president of the civic league.
The initial city draft defined such short-term rentals as a commercial use and limited events to three per year, a remnant of an informal city policy enacted by the city’s former zoning administrator, Karen Lasley, before the city tackled the issue in earnest.
The current draft version would limit the number of events to two per year, and it would cap the number of attendees to 100 per event.
The meetings are each scheduled to last two hours on the following dates and at the following locations:
► 6 p.m., July 18, at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, 717 General Booth Boulevard.
► 6 p.m., July 19, at the Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront, 5700 Atlantic Avenue.
► 6 p.m., July 20, in the Sunset Room at the Virginia Beach Resort and Conference Center, 2800 Shore Drive
► 6 p.m., July 21, Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library, 4100 block Virginia Beach Boulevard
► 7 p.m., July 22, Sandbridge Community Chapel United Methodist Church, 3041 Sandpiper Road
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