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Vacation home matter in Northumberland County to require additional public hearing

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Northumberland County’s Board of Supervisors finally acted on a proposed tourist/vacation home ordinance change Thursday night. It also listened to public comments about the county’s budget for the coming fiscal year.
The tourist/vacation home question had been carried over from the Board’s regular June meeting when speakers at the public hearing noted that they didn’t want what have up until now been called tourist homes and under a proposal sent forward by the planning commission would be called vacation homes next to their houses.
The tourist/vacation homes are houses rented for no more than 30 days to groups of as many as 14 people. Under the current ordinance such homes are allowed in residential areas with a conditional use permit issued after a public hearing. The proposal forwarded by the planning commission would allow “vacation homes”, essentially the same thing as tourist homes, as a “by right” use in residential areas.
The Supervisors looked at six alternatives that ranged from keeping all tourist homes as a use requiring a conditional use permit and public hearing to creating a new “vacation home” permitted by right on which there would be no public hearing.
The Supervisors favored splitting the baby to allow vacation homes by right unless another property owner has a dwelling within 250 feet of the vacation home. In that case, a conditional use permit would be required. If a home was already properly operating as a vacation home and a new dwelling was built with 250 feet of it, the vacation home could continue to operate.
Since the split-option was not before the board during its public hearing on vacation homes, an additional public hearing will be required before the Board can adopt the ordinance change.
After dealing with the vacation home matter, the Board had a public hearing on the coming fiscal year’s budget.
County Administrator Kenny Eades provided the Board with a draft budget calling for expenditures of $3,788,805 in fiscal 2015, an increase of $550,000 over fiscal year 2014. The increase matched anticipated revenues for the year but actual expenditures would rise offset by an almost $2 million decrease in the undesignated general fund balance the county tries to maintain. In the past that fund has been pegged at about $5.6 million but would be $3.7 million. Due to decreases in property values, the county’s real property tax would have to be increased to 49 cents per $100 in value to raise the anticipated revenue.
Several speakers addressed the Board with all of them imploring the Board to fully fund the county school system’s $17.3 million budget request.
The Board scheduled a work session on the budget for Wednesday night (June 25) at 6 p.m. and a vote on it for 8 a.m. Thursday (June 26) morning.