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Lake AirBnB host urges Board to soften rental policy

A Lake Monticello resident cited earlier this year for renting space in his home via AirBnB in violation of community bylaws asked the Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) Board of Directors to consider “a more liberal interpretation” of the rules to meet the modern era of short-term rentals.

Edward Allen of Overlook Circle appeared before the Board at its meeting Thursday (Dec. 21) to appeal a $50 citation issued by the Environmental Compliance Committee in June.

Allen told directors that he didn’t disagree with the overall spirit of the prohibition against short-term home rentals, which was put in place in part to prevent non-residents to come in and potentially create a “party atmosphere.” 

He said there’s a difference between renting a house and leaving it unattended, and renting room in a home when he is present.

“It’s no different than if I invited a family member,” he said. “The only difference here is that I am collecting a small fee from AirBnB to allow someone to stay here.”

General Manager Catherine Neelley disagreed with his interpretation, saying the policy prohibits renting out even a portion of a home.

Allen also argued that there’s a real need for short-term rentals in the area, given the lack of hotels in the county.

Of the 10 to 15 guests he’s had in the past year, he estimated half were couples looking to buy homes at Lake Monticello.

Communities across the United States are struggling to set policies that address the rise of sites like AirBnB, VBRO, and HomeAway. Over the last two years, Charlottesville and Albemarle County have instituted permit requirements for short-term rental owners.

Fluvanna County is currently looking at ordinance changes that would allow “accessory homestays” in residential areas. County Administrator Steve Nichols said the Board of Supervisors will be holding public hearings on the proposed changes in the spring.

Changes to county ordinances would have no impact on Lake Monticello, which is privately owned.

“The issue tonight is the current policy. You want us to consider changing the policy, we can certainly look into that,” Director Tom Braithwaite told Allen.

But when Allen asked how he would go about seeking a rule change, it was clear he had few options. 

A resident could theoretically get a policy change on the ballot at the LMOA annual meeting in June. However, Neelley said she believed the rule was in the Statement of Subdivision, which would require the approval of two-thirds of the residents in each section. 

Allen’s appeal was denied on a vote of 5-0.