Redefining tourist homes
Northumberland County’s Planning Commission took the first step in examining the county’s laws regarding “tourist homes” last Thursday night.
The commission voted to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the county code’s definition of a tourist home be changed by adding the words to clarify what a “transient” is under the provision.
The additional language would read “defined hereunder as individuals who will occupy the dwelling for less than 30 days.”
Thirty days is the point at which standard rentals have traditionally begun and the additional wording would avoid confusion on the point.
Under the current code, houses may be operated as tourist homes, essentially short term rentals without any amenities being provided, only with a conditional use permit from the board.
In the past two years several applications for such permits have come before supervisors and have frequently involved protracted public hearings with many people who live near-by objecting to the permits being issued.
The planning commission voted Thursday to advertise a public hearing at which the commission will consider whether tourist homes should be removed from the requirement for conditional use permits and made a use by right in any zoning district that permits residences. Were that done, the Board of Supervisors would be taken out of the process and permits could be issued by the county’s land use administrator on a showing that the home met whatever criteria for tourist homes the county had adopted.
The draft criteria suggested by the county staff include many of the conditions that the supervisors have placed on conditional use permits for tourist homes such as limiting occupancy to two persons per bedroom plus two more people and requirements that pets be kept under control.
Assistant County Administrator Luttrell Tadlock said Friday that not only would a change of tourist homes to a use “by right” require public hearings before both the planning commission and board of supervisors but so would adoption of criteria to be met beofore a house may be operated at as a tourist home.