Onancock accepts 2 short term rentals and agrees to review rental policy


Town of Onancock welcome sign. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

By Carol Vaughn –

Two applications for special use permits to operate host families or short-term rentals in Onancock drew criticism in public hearings at Monday’s city council meeting.
The properties for which permits have been requested are 9 Market Street and 6 King Street.
Onancock City Council after the hearings and discussion voted 3-1 to approve the two permits, with council member Joy Marino voting against the motions and council member Thelma Gillespie abstaining.
Additionally, council members have agreed that a moratorium will be placed on future requests until the planning committee considers the homestay issue.
Mayor Fletcher Fosque read a letter from neighboring owners Sharon and John Snead opposing the use of 9 Market Street as a homestay, citing concerns about noise at night and the negative effects on property values .
“Using residential property for commercial purposes seems odd, especially in a historic district,” they wrote.
Another nearby owner, Kathy Boyd, opposed the request. She recommended that the city impose a moratorium on foster families, “so that the town planning council and council can look at what’s going on with the foster families.” Obviously, this is a problem that other municipalities and cities have had.
Boyd said she and her husband were concerned about density – having two foster families “right in our little neighborhood.”
“We are not opposed to host families but we believe they should be considered,” she said, calling on the city to “consider it in a larger plan”.
Sarah Nock, another nearby owner, also called for a moratorium and that the planning committee approach homestays in a larger context, noting that both properties, although the addresses are in different streets, “are actually side by side”.
Bob Spoth, another nearby landlord, also called for a moratorium, saying the city “needs to develop a town plan.”
“It’s investment property at this point and it’s commercial use,” King Street resident John Simpkins said.
Mixing properties owned by full-time residents with investment property creates a more volatile real estate market, he said.
Lisa Cuba, the owner of 9 Market Street, said she submitted the application in accordance with city requirements and would live within 10 minutes.
“We will manage it … We hope it will really support the city by allowing people to visit the city and explore the city and feel comfortable in the city,” she said. .
Board member Maphis Oswald said she understood the concerns, but said both requests meet current requirements.
She agreed that the planning commission should look at the larger issue.
“There’s a lot of investment going on right now… to bring tourists and sightseeing to the city. If you’re going to spend all of this time, effort, and money, where is it going? Oswald said, noting that host families are a good option for people traveling with pets or children.
Onancock, without a beach, is unlikely to attract rowdy visitors, she said.
The residence at 6 King Street has been used as a foster home since before the city needed a special use permit, according to general manager Matt Spuck. The person who wants to buy the house has applied for a permit to continue using it.
Jeff Vernimb of 14 King Street, at a hearing on the demand, urged a moratorium on foster families.
“There are a lot of people looking to make investments and I think it could get a little tricky,” he said.
He said he heard that a potential owner of another property on King Street was considering using the property as a foster family.
“We love the city. Unfortunately, we cannot live here full time at this time; it’s not doable, but we definitely plan to spend as much time here as possible. We would like my boys to be exposed to the community here. I would love to be a part of the community, ”said Karl Smith of Richmond. the applicant.
Smith said he and his wife hoped to eventually retire to Onancock.
“I love the city for what it is. I don’t want it to become a bustling tourist hub and degrade the way people care, ”he said.
“This is a very, very big deal,” said resident Janet Fosque, adding that she would not speak against any of the candidates. Still, she said officials should consider options to put parameters on permits.
“I think your main obligation is not to have two people in this room tonight. It’s up to the people who elected you who live here in this city, ”she said.
Council members discussed that the city code does not deal with homestay permit applications submitted by future owners.
Spuck said he would “absolutely approve a moratorium” after the current demands. He said the planning committee had the issue of foster families as the only item on the agenda for its next meeting on July 20.
Still, he said both candidates comply with current requirements.
The city currently has nine approved special use permits for host families out of 750 residences, Spuck said.
“I think it’s perfectly appropriate that the Planning Commission is thoughtful and forward-thinking enough to undertake this conversation now, when we only have nine, and I don’t think that changes the character of our community. “, did he declare.
Spuck recommended approval of the two applications, which, if approved, would bring the total number of approved foster care permits to 11.
He said he had no pending homestay requests.
Mayor Fletcher Fosque said he was in favor of a moratorium and neighbors’ comments should be taken into account when deciding whether or not to approve the two permits. He noted that council rejected a similar request for a property on Ames Street because two neighbors complained.
“There are people who don’t want to live next to an Airbnb. It is their right, ”he said.
Council member Bob Bloxom noted that the current ordinance requiring a special use permit has been in effect for two years.
Bloxom approved the approval of the two permits, but asked the planning committee to look into the larger issue.
“I don’t think we have a problem at this point. We’ve had Airbnbs or VRBOs in this town for many years before we had an order. We have had the Books Ordinance for two years. We certainly didn’t have a lot of public comment when we discussed this ordinance and to my knowledge we haven’t had any complaints in many years, ”he said.
Bloxom said the people who rent host families in Onancock “are actually the type of people we want to attract to the city” – usually older people who spend money on art galleries and restaurants. restaurants in town.
Still, council member Joy Marino said council recently rejected a similar request on Ames Street because neighbors objected.
“It’s one of those questions that is opinion and that’s why we are listening to your opinions,” she said, adding that she was in favor of a moratorium.
Oswald said Onancock is known for its user-friendliness.
“I understand the fears… Don’t be afraid to embrace something that I think has its place in this city,” she said, noting that the current ordinance includes the provision that the permit will be revoked if complaints are lodged.
“There are safety nets in place,” she said.
Council member Ray Burger said a study should be done before a moratorium is imposed.

Municipal elections will take place in November
An amendment to the city of Onancock’s code moved the elections for council members and mayor to the first Tuesday in November, after the General Assembly passed legislation moving local elections in Virginia from May to November. Due to the change, the current council members and the mayor will serve an additional six months this term.

Onancock Main Street, a nonprofit run by volunteers, now has a website, https://www.experienceonancock.org/
In a presentation to Onancock City Council, WHO Board Chair Janet Fosque called it “the most comprehensive tourist site Onancock has ever had.”
The city’s new branding is also complete and OMS will host a brand launch event on Friday July 9.


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