The Franklin County Planning Commission approved three new short-term rentals at its March 10 meeting. The applications are part of a growing trend of short-term rentals in the county as efforts are ongoing to find ways to better regulate them.

Boyd Temple of Salem applied for a special-use permit to allow for short-term rentals at his lakefront home just off Scruggs Road in Moneta. Because the property is zoned A1, Temple was required to obtain a special-use permit from the county first.

The one-bedroom home on 3.2 acres is on Strawberry Banks Drive. Temple said the small home is 250 feet from the closest neighboring home and is blocked by trees on each side.

“I don’t see us making a substantial impact to the neighborhood,” Temple said.

Multiple neighbors spoke out against the proposed short-term rental at the public hearing. Gary Fisher, a resident of the nearby Spinnaker Run neighborhood, said allowing the short-term rental would set a dangerous precedent for the community that would allow other nearby homeowners to apply for short-term rentals. Others said the cove where the home’s dock is located is too narrow and too crowded for inexperienced boaters who may be renting the home.

Deborah Crawford, a planning commission member representing Union Hall, said neighbors shouldn’t expect that everyone renting the home will cause problems for the community.

“There are a lot of people who live on the lake full time who do not know how to operate a watercraft,” Crawford said. “You can’t justify that every renter is going to be a bad renter.”

Gills Creek representative Jim Colby said the community where the proposed short-term rental is located is designated in the county’s comprehensive plan as residential. He said a short-term rental does not fit into that community because it is a business.

“To me, it is a commercial use,” Colby said.

Colby moved to deny the request for a special-use permit. The motion failed 6-1 with only Colby voting for it. Crawford then moved to approve the special-use permit. The motion passed 6-1 with Colby voting against.

Two other short-term rentals approved March 10 received far less discussion from the planning commission or from people in attendance. Edward Carter Jr. applied for a special-use permit for a short-term rental at his home on Ridgeway Road in Hardy and Bradley Walker applied for a special use permit for a short-term rental on Ty Valley Lane in Glade Hill.

Both special-use permits were unanimously approved by the planning commission. The proposed short-term rentals now will go before the Franklin County Board of Supervisors for a vote on April 21.

Following the public hearings, the planning commission discussed possible steps to regulate short-term rentals in the county. Steve Sandy, Franklin County director of planning and community development, provided several options for the county based on a previous work session between the planning commission and the board of supervisors Feb. 18.

Some steps discussed at the March 10 meeting include a registry for every short-term rental in the county and improved safety requirements at those homes. Homes would have to pay an annual registration fee, have a smoke detector in each room, a fire extinguisher and a posted evacuation plan. Members of Franklin County Public Safety or a fire department would be required to inspect the home annually.

Any short-term rental that does not register would face a $500 fine. Sandy said anyone who does not comply with the proposed requirements could face a $200 fine for each violation for a maximum of $5,000.

Another plan discussed by Sandy was for the county to hire a third-party consultant, Host Compliance, to oversee short-term rentals in the county. The company would handle monitoring, auditing and enforcing short-term rentals. Sandy said the company currently works with 10 local jurisdictions in Virginia.

In addition to proposed regulations, Sandy also discussed increasing taxes on short-term rentals in the county to increase revenue. Franklin County currently collects a 5% transient occupancy tax on short-term rentals. The county could work with local representatives in the Virginia General Assembly to introduce a bill that would raise the tax to 7%, Sandy said.

While the planning commission did not vote on the proposals at the meeting, the majority seemed to be in favor of bringing them before the board of supervisors at its next meeting.