Public Comment Session for New Ordinance at Board of Supervisors Meeting

Board of Supervisors TU10JUL18 Meeting

The County of Fairfax Board of Supervisors met to discuss STRs and citizens supporting STR were there in force as we begin to organize.  There were 35 individuals speaking in support of STRs, each given 3 minutes to speak.  Actually one of them represented our group “Citizens4STR” and was given 5 minutes!  There was only 1 person against STRs and 4 persons representing HOAs which were given up to 5 minutes, all of which were against STRs.

The Board decided not to decide until its next meeting on TU31JUL18 which is 3 weeks later.

This is the link to the long 8-hour meeting, pick July 10th, and scroll towards the end since STRs are fourth on the agenda.  It is actually starts at time 5:08:17 of the 7:56:46 video recording.  This recording may not be posted online with such easy access after a period of time.

Board of Supervisors Meetings Video Archive - Fairfax County, Virginia

These are the first 2 speakers in support of STRs:

Speaker #1:

My name is John McEwan and I live at 9401 Ludgate DR, in Alexandria, Virginia.

Hypocrites!

That’s the word that comes to mind in discussing Airbnb.  By a show of hands, how many of you Board members have NOT stayed in an Airbnb? How many of you have kids or grandkids or friends who have NOT stayed in Airbnbs?  How many of you have NOT taken an Uber or even know what that is?  Or NOT know someone who has?  The fact is most Millennials not only know these terms but actually use these new services.  Welcome to the 21st Century!

Last year the County conducted its own survey and received an amazing 7k responses.  Question 10 is very clear and reports that 82% of the respondents support Airbnb for “Detached, single-family homes.”

So if 82% of the residents in the County support Airbnbs, who is the Board representing when the majority of its Board members don’t want Airbnbs?  The Hotel Lobby?  By a show of hands, how many Board members have NOT taken money from the Hotel Lobby?

Some mistakenly believe that 7k is a poor sample.  Let me make it simple.  Most of the Board members are familiar with prostrate cancer and how if you have a high PSA number a biopsy or sample may be taken.  Now let’s pretend that the doctor took 7k samples out of the millions of cells in your prostate.  If 82% of those samples came back as positive for cancer, what do you think your chances are?  Statisticians know very well that 7k is a very good sample and response rate.

Finally, the County is thinking of assessing an additional tax beyond the income and real estate taxes we pay for renting 29 days but not for renting 30 days by stating that 29 days constitutes a business and 30 days magically does not.  That is pure nonsense.  It is like taking the position that selling 29 cups of lemonade on one’s front lawn is a business and but selling 30 or even 365 cups is not a business — crazy!

It is time to realize that studies show that Airbnb actually improves a home’s value, and that your constituents support Airbnb by a overwhelming majority.  It is time to support your constituents and not the Hotel Lobby and other special interests!

The site “residents4str.com” shows that your own Zoning Ordinance and the Supreme Court of Virginia support Airbnb.  HOAs can dictate the color of your house and the County can dictate how tall your fence can be, but none of these can restrict WHO can have access to your neighborhood and how long you can operate a permitted use.

The County Attorney is supporting its client’s misguided agenda in a mistaken display of loyalty.  It should be providing its client with sound legal advice.  The good news is that the 19th Circuit Court and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development may do just that!

Speaker #2:

My name is Mary Lou McEwan and I live at 9401 Ludgate DR, in Alexandria, Virginia, in the Mount Vernon District, about one thousand feet from George Washington’s historic Estate.  My husband and I, along with the Ratcliffs, were the first residents that the County decided to single-out and cite for operating a Short-Termed Rental (STR) out of the thousands of STRs operating in the County for years.

Our position has always been that the County should treat those of us who rent our homes for 29 days the same as those who rent their homes for 30 days in accordance with the Supreme Court of Virginia’s 2007 SCOTT v. WALKER decision. See residents4str.com.

But now I’m thinking that maybe that is not enough.  Maybe the County and/or Commonwealth should provide a tax incentive to those of us who rent our homes in exemplary  STR fashion.  For in doing so we are acting as local representatives or “ambassadors” who bring economic growth and development into the County.

In the old days you could drive through a neighborhood and immediately tell which houses were owner-occupied and which were rentals.  And of course you would see the occasional “perfect” home that was being sold with its sales sign.  Nowadays, that is still true but there are more “perfect homes” but without sales signs.  These are STRs, typically Airbnbs.  Recent studies show that where STRs are allowed, home values are up.  Why are these rental properties so well-kept?

It is because its tenants and landlords are constantly rating each other.  No such mechanism exists in the long-term rental market.

But it goes beyond that.  STRs bring families together from all over to celebrate joyful occasions.  There is so much love and happiness.  One doesn’t sign a one-year lease to do this nor rent a half a dozen hotel rooms. We personally greet our tenants.

Our tenants love us and we love them.  But don’t take my word for it, check out our Airbnb reviews and perfect 5-star rating.  My husband and I are the perfect ambassadors to represent the County, the Commonwealth and this great Country of ours.  Just like we learn about and appreciate other places, our tenants learn about and appreciate our neighborhood in historic Mount Vernon, our County, our Commonwealth, and our great Country.

When one considers all of the economic growth and development that STRs bring into the County, and then contrasts that with the additional tax that the County is thinking of levying for this positive activity; I think we got this all backwards.  Instead of levying a third tax on its ambassadors, it should consider giving a tax incentive.  The money would come from the increased business growth and development and also from the millions of dollars that the County and Commonwealth already budget for the promotion of businesses and tourism.

The residents of the County have clearly made their views known when answering question 10 of the County’s own survey in which 82% support STRs for “Detached, single-family homes.”

Now is time for the County’s leadership to be proactive, to embrace the new paradigms of the 21st Century, and to do the people’s will!