Zoning Dodge Ball
Notes from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® 2023 Property Rights Luncheon
If you want to pack a conference room full of REALTORS®, feed them lunch and watch that parking lot fill to capacity.
I was one of those having to score a spot at the Food Lion just down the road from the Hillsdale Conference Center in Charlottesville, the site of the 2023 Property Rights Luncheon – “Zoning the Future".” The skewers and brownie bites were great but I guaranty you, the agents assembled in this room came for a zoning update.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that several localities are going through the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance process. Organized by the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS®’s Public Affairs Master Group, the meeting was moderated by Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum. The panel consisted of:
Robin Amato, REALTOR®, Real Estate III Commercial Properties
Woody Fincham, Appraiser, Fincham & Associates, Inc.
James Freas, Charlottesville Planning Director
Bart Svoboda, Albemarle Zoning Administrator
Why, you may wonder, would I be interested in nibbling on brownie bites at a meeting featuring property experts outside of Nelson County? Because policies crafted in metro areas tend to seep over to rural areas. I’ve seen it happen in and around the Washington, D.C. Beltway – raise your hand if you remember Braddock Road being two lanes and Loudoun County being “the sticks” – and it it can very well happen in Nelson.
There’s plenty of hand wringing along the Nelson 151 tourism corridor over proposed increased development in Nellysford and the future of short term rentals. Charlottesville city planners are aiming to increase housing density in an effort to reverse low inventory and alleviate the affordability crisis. Whisper the words “increased housing density” in Nelson County, and watch your email inbox blow up.
If there was a memorable moment in today’s meeting, it was when Charlottesville Planning Director, James Freas, said that short term rentals would be eliminated from residential properties zoned R-A, R-B, and R-C.
Though that’s not a done deal yet, the remark elicited an audible gasp in the room. We all know the trend is towards higher STR regulation in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, but even so, the word “elimination” is a strong one in our neck of the woods. After all, you could argue that Wintergreen Resort introduced STRs to the county decades ago, an important economic driver that predates the winery and brewery scene.
That word reminds me of a particularly brutal version of dodge ball in elementary school. Instead of the traditional school yard game pitting two sides against each other, the goal of Elimination was for one player — who controlled the ball — to peg it at anyone around him to “eliminate” him from the game. If you were lucky enough to catch that ball, then you stood a chance of surviving this blood sport, now that you had the opportunity to eliminate other players. And in my grade school experience, if Robert M. was aiming that ball at you, you had better brace yourself for the sting of the Red Rubber Ball of Humiliation to hit your face.
Rite of passage? Barrier to Short Term Rental ownership? Both, probably.
So back to my point about keeping tabs on zoning trends in Charlottesville. I haven’t heard the term “elimination” even enter the discussion regarding the future of STRs in our county. “Increased regulation,” yes, depending on who you’re sipping that craft beer with. But the trajectory of that red rubber ball can be hard to anticipate, so best to practice your dodging, sprinting, and catching skills.
Put down the brownie bite and get to work.
Writer’s note: An immediate follow-up question to confirm the intent to eliminate STRs from all three of Charlottesville’s residential zoning classes (and not just R-A, for example) wasn’t possible given the luncheon’s format, but if there are any clarifications to be made, I’ll post them here. If you were at this meeting, feel free to clarify/opine in the comments.