Homestay provisions will not be eliminated as part of zoning code update

As Charlottesville plans for public hearings on a new zoning code, a proposed prohibition on short-term rentals of “homestays” has been pulled from consideration.

“We’ve gotten substantial comment back and in conversations with various of my colleagues and others in the community, we believe that this is a larger issue than we might have anticipated and one that we would recommend we kick out of this process and take up after the zoning ordinance is adopted,” said James Freas, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services. 

A consolidated draft of the Development Code released earlier this month had removed “Homestay” from a list of accessory uses that would be allowed under the new zoning. That had not been included in previous drafts released earlier this year. 

Freas said this is one example of how the city’s zoning code should be considered a living document that will be updated over time. He made his comments at a briefing given to the Planning Commission and the City Council on Tuesday. 

The final version of the Development Code considered eliminating homestays as an accessory use but that will no longer be part of this update. (Credit: City of Charlottesville)

“The intent here is for the Planning Commission to conduct a public hearing on Thursday, September 14,” Freas said. “That hearing will be in Council Chambers so note the change in venue and it will begin at 4 p.m.”

Notice has been mailed to property owners in the city about the public hearing. Those who wish to speak will be limited to two minutes. 

Freas said it will be up to the Planning Commission to determine if they would like to vote on a recommendation or if that will be done at a later time. Dates have been reserved for September 19 in Council Chambers and September 26 at City Space. 

Once the Commission is done with their work, Freas said Council will hold their own work sessions on a range of topics. If any changes are to be made, a new draft will be produced for Council before their vote. The plan is for Council to hold their own public hearing. 

Once adopted, the zoning won’t take effect until a specific date after the day a vote is taken. Some projects currently in the process may have the opportunity to proceed under the old rules, but where that line will be drawn is not yet known. 

Freas also addressed another item that is not in the draft zoning code. The Comprehensive Plan’s Future Land Use map designated “Sensitive Community Areas” which depicted places where residents are subject to displacement pressure. 

“We have not moved forward with an overlay or zoning specific to Sensitive Community Areas,” Freas said. “I would note that a number of the recommendations that are in the Sensitive Community Area recommendation page… have been incorporated into the general zoning ordinance.” 

Freas said this includes allowing for more units to be built across the city and changes to allow smaller lot sizes in some residential zoning areas. He said there was a sense that restricting development in those area would limit wealth-building opportunities.

“If the displacement is a result of rising taxes, there are other ways of addressing that issue as well,” Freas said.  

City Councilor Michael Payne said he did not support the lack of a specific overlay.

“I would expect that this will definitely be one of the topics we need to have a work session about,” Payne said. “I know it was pretty integral into the original plan and strategy and the connection to the [Affordable Housing Plan] and I know just in the past week or two, this has been of particular interest to the 10th and Page Neighborhood Association as well as the Fifeville Neighborhood Association.”

Freas pointed out that the Comprehensive Plan clearly states that specific non-zoning interventions may need to be made for each community. 

A question from me: Who should do that work? The city government? Non-profits? Individual homeowners? This particular part of the conversation is not over. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the August 30, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

Additionally, this was posted during a time I’ve upgraded to a new WordPress theme. Some things may not look as they should. But, it’s a fun experiment!

2 thoughts on “Homestay provisions will not be eliminated as part of zoning code update

  1. Curious if this potential Homestay change would apply to the County or only the City. Also, would there be grandfathering? And lastly, understood that it’s been removed from the immediate conversation but when would it be taken up and how will we know?

    1. The elimination of the homestay provision was to have been in Charlottesville, not Albemarle. In Charlottesville, it would come back likely in about a year from now when the new development code would go through what they’re referring to as a yearly clean-up.

      In Albemarle, homestays are handled a little differently because of the variety of neighborhood types throughout the whole county. It’s been some time since I’ve written about homestays in Albemarle but will keep my eye out for an opportunity to do so.

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