Planning Commission to endorse tourist homes
Northumberland County’s planning commission decided Thursday night that a proposal to make tourist homes a “by right” permitted use in residential areas should be considered favorably by the Board of Supervisors.
The commission had a public hearing on the question in September at which numerous people questioned the wisdom of changing the operation of tourist homes from a use requiring a conditional use permit from the Board of Supervisors which would require individual scrutiny of applications and a public hearing on each to a use permitted automatically if the operator met conditions imposed by the ordinance.
The proposed ordinance includes requirements ranging from the home having a landline telephone and a local manager to limiting the number of guests in such homes to a maximum of 14 at any one time.
Before the commissioners turned to the proposed ordinance, they took time to thank Zoning Administrator W.H. Shirley who is retiring as of Nov. 1 for his long service and to welcome his replacement, Phillip Marston.
After that, the commission meeting involved the commissioners discussing the matter among themselves.
Commissioner Bill Kling was worried that people think the terms “by right” and “permitted use” had different meanings. Assistant County Administrator Luttrell Tadlock assured him that they do not. Both simply mean that a particular use of property may be made with additional permits from the county. “Permitted use and by right mean the same thing,” Shirley said.
Commissioner Al Fisher pointed out that the proposed ordinance automatically imposed conditions on anyone who applied for a permit to operate a tourist home.
Shirley noted that Northumberland County has always had tourist homes but only recently have they come under scrutiny when home owners associations began objecting.
Fisher wanted to know if home owners associations can bar tourist homes within their subdivisions. Shirley said that they can but they must do it explicitly in their by laws.
Kling wanted to know if existing tourist homes are “grandfathered”. When Shirley said they are, Pat Boone, a member of the audience, said, “That’s not so.”
Shirley explained that Boone had operated a tourist home when his homeowners association suggested what he was doing fell under the tourist home ordinance, which county officials had not thought it had. When the county attorney, Les Kilduff opined that Boone’s operation dis fall under the ordinance, Boone applied for a conditional use permit that the Board of Supervisors denied. Then, while he was not operating and therefore not grandfathered, the homeowners association passed a by law banning such uses, Shirley explained.
When no commissioners disagreed with the proposed rules and nobody pointed out any in response to Commissioner Al Penly’s query, “Does anybody see a down side?”, the commissioners voted unanimously to send the proposed ordinance to the Supervisors with a favorable recommendation.