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Zoning overhaul could allow for AirBnBs

A proposed overhaul of Albemarle’s “dwelling definitions” could affect where lodging businesses such as Air BnBs operate.

The reorganization of those definitions — which stipulate how a residential property can be used — is meant to clarify which kinds of dwellings are allowed in certain areas, staff explained.

“Right now we have (dwelling definitions) strewn all throughout our ordinances,” said Planning and Development Services Director Kevin Robinson. “Some (dwelling uses) are in definitions, some (are) mentioned but never defined, some (are) stand-alone sections.”

The first thing the department proposes to do is gather all of those definitions into one place and organize them into four main categories: residential dwelling, temporary dwelling, transient dwelling and group/assisted care dwelling.

“It’s a better way of looking at it when you pull up the ordinances,” Robinson said. “Instead of looking all over, everything is right there.”

Next they would clarify definitions by consolidating repetitive language, or expanding poorly written explanations.

For example since nursing homes and assisted living facilities follow the same zoning rules, they could be combined into one definition. Or since inpatient rehabilitation dwellings were never fully defined, more would be added to their definition.

“The majority of this is reorganization,” Robinson said.

However, some changes would impact more than organization.

The department also proposes to add about six or seven new definitions to its zoning code. These would allow for new kinds of dwellings in Albemarle.

For example, two definitions (Rooming House, and Homestay) would allow residents to rent out rooms on home sharing websites like Air BnB (something previously not permitted).

The rooming house definition would allow up to 10 people to rent an unoccupied house in residential-office or neighborhood business districts.

A homestay dwelling would allow up to four people to rent rooms in an occupied house in all residential districts — including high occupancy housing like apartments and town homes.

“That’s actually what started this whole process,” said Councilwoman Martha Sue Hall, noting that they had a resident come in requesting to use their property as an AirBnB about four months ago.

With Pfeiffer preparing to move downtown, residents wanted to purchase a house near downtown to rent out to incoming students or professors through AirBnB.

“I think this is addressing that growth and the needs we’re going to see (with Pfeiffer),” Councilman Benton Dry said. “It’s about time we put something down. I think we want to make sure we’re being proactive.”

In light of that, the planning department also proposed other dwelling definitions, such as dormitories, fraternity and sorority homes and boarding houses.

Other pre-existing definitions could be expanded to new zoning districts, or restricted from others, too.

However, since the changes are so expansive, councilors have decided to read over them until their their meeting on Oct. 1 before making a decision.

Anyone wishing to speak on that matter is asked to do so at a public hearing at 7 p.m. To find out more about the proposed changes contact the Planning and Development Services Department at 704-984-9424.