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Hampton approves new restrictions on short-term rentals

City Council chambers reached capacity as residents turned out to comment on Hampton's short-term rental rules on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.
Nick McNamara / WHRO
City Council chambers reached capacity as residents turned out to comment on Hampton's short-term rental rules on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

The number of AirBnB or Vrbo rentals will be capped by neighborhood under new rules.

The number of short-term rentals operating in Hampton neighborhoods will be limited and owners will have to follow a set of rules to operate legally in the city as of September 1.

The City Council Wednesday approved the new policies on how and where AirBnB and Vrbo rentals can conduct business.

The body approved most of the proposals recommended by the Planning Commission unchanged.

The big one: Short-term rentals are capped to 1% of residences within each of the city's 51 zones. Owners will have to apply for a permit and schedule a unit inspection to run a rental and the new rules also require owners to assign a local person responsible to respond to nuisances at their rental units.

City councilors, though, opted to change proposed proximity limits after hearing concerns from rental operators. Rather than a 500 feet distance between short-term rentals, Hampton will only require a 300 feet separation.

"We noted the 500 feet (separation) would really eliminate a number of opportunities for short-term rentals," Vice Mayor Jimmy Gray said. "We want to provide every opportunity for those short-term rentals that were operating legally to continue to operate."

The discussion at Wednesday’s council meeting drew dozens of public commenters, many of whom advocated for easing the spacing limits.

"Without these changes, (these limits) are going to negatively affect me and more importantly affect the City of Hampton's family tourism and the tax revenue that we can garner from doing this ordinance right," said Greg Garrett.

Gray, the vice-mayor, responded to calls from short-term rental proponents pushing to raise the 1% cap in neighborhoods like Buckroe Beach, saying that could come in the future.

"It's difficult to start at 3% and then find that you've allowed too many and then try to roll it back," he said. "(If) we find that we don't have issues with degradation in the neighborhoods from short-term rentals and transient occupancy going on, we may be able to increase that percentage in the future."

Others wanted to see even greater restrictions on short-term rentals, including prohibiting them from some neighborhoods altogether.

Joan Weaver thought too much of the conversation around regulating short-term rentals emphasized tourism and tax dollars.

"You short-term rentals may have rights, but your rights end where my rights start," she said. "Don't put no dollars over me. Respect me, and then your dollars will come."

The rules go into effect on September 1 and enforcement by zoning officers will start in October.

Operators of approved short-term rentals that have been grandfathered in will have until the end of the year to get a permit under the new process.

In-process applications for permits submitted under the old rules will be automatically converted to the new zoning permit application.

Learn more about Hampton short-term rental rules here.

Nick is a general assignment reporter focused on the cities of Williamsburg, Hampton and Suffolk. He joined WHRO in 2024 after moving to Virginia. Originally from Los Angeles County, Nick previously covered city government in Manhattan, KS, for News Radio KMAN.

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