Short-term rentals are once again gaining the attention of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors. New regulations are being considered on a business that is allowed in many parts of the county, including sections of the lake.
“There is a misunderstanding that Franklin County does not allow short-term rentals,” said Steve Sandy, Franklin County director of planning and community development.
Short-term rentals are allowed in the southern half of Franklin County that has no zoning. In the zoned area of the county, short-term rentals are allowed by right in portions zoned RPD and PCD. In areas zoned A1, short-term rentals can be permitted by obtaining a special-use permit.
Around the lake, several communities are zoned either RPD or PCD. Those communities include The Waterfront, Bernard’s Landing and The Water’s Edge, among others. In these zoned areas, short-term rentals are allowed. Sandy said there are approximately 3,000 parcels in the county that are zoned RPD or PCD.
Sandy said there is little to stop anyone from having a short-term rental in properties zoned RPD or PCD. Homeowners associations can set up rules to prevent short-term rentals, Sandy said, but it would be up to the community and not the county to enforce.
A majority of the properties in Franklin County are zoned A1, including several lakefront parcels. Any property owner interested in starting a short-term rental in an area zoned A1 only needs to request a special-use permit from the board of supervisors, which holds a public hearing.
The Franklin County Board of Supervisors were faced with the issue in December when a property owner in the Kennedy Shores development of Union Hall requested a special-use permit to allow short-term rentals. While the application was later withdrawn, supervisors agreed to consider changes to current short-term rental rules.
Supervisors and the planning commission reviewed current short-term rental rules in 2015, Sandy said. Ultimately, no consensus was made on any changes.
Also at that December meeting, supervisors discussed holding a joint meeting with the planning commission in February. While it hasn’t been confirmed, Sandy said the goal of the meeting would be to discuss what, if any, changes should be made to the county’s short-term rental rules. One idea proposed, Sandy said, was a registry that short-term rental providers could sign up for to give a better idea of how many there are in the county.
While short-term rentals are allowed in areas around the county, Sandy said his department has found several short-term rentals where they are not allowed through reports from neighbors. The county’s planning and community development department also works closely with Franklin County Commissioner of the Revenue Margaret Torrence to track down short-term rental owners.
Torrence said she and her staff will search short-term rental sites such as HomeAway and Airbnb, among other places, for homes in Franklin County. A short-term rental is a business and is required to pay county sales tax and transient occupancy tax.
“It is a very tedious process,” Torrence said. “We have found a lot, but there are a lot more.”
There are currently 88 transient occupancy accounts listed in the county that are paying the necessary taxes. Torrence said that number reflects several property managers who have multiple short-term rentals.
Any short-term rentals found to not be paying taxes are contacted by Torrence and informed that they are in violation.
She said it is best for individuals with short-term rentals who have not registered to contact the county before they are found and possibly penalized.
“It is always better to do it the right way,” Torrence said.
A map of zoned areas in Franklin County is available at https://gis.franklincountyva.gov/PZViewer/index.html.