May 2022 Planning Commission Chamber Comments
Below is the written comments presented by Executive Director Tracy Hale Clark to the Louisa County Planning Commission on May 12, 2022 regarding the proposed Short-Term Rental Guidelines.
On behalf of the Louisa County Chamber of Commerce board of directors and our 290 members, we recommend the Planning Commission further investigate the proposed short term rental guidelines Chapter 86, Land Development Regulations to better understand their impact on the economy, workforce, and the environment.
Tourism is critical to our economy and the Chamber has been actively promoting Louisa and Lake Anna for several years with support from four Virginia Tourism Corporation grants. Member restaurants, shops, boat rentals, landscapers, cleaning companies, builders, entertainers, breweries & wineries all credit tourism as a key component to surviving the past two years. In fact, several businesses realize between 50% - 75% of their annual revenue directly impacted by tourism, some would not exist without it. We believe it would be beneficial to review more data related to STR, year-round residents or weekend/day travelers to gain a better understanding of what type of visitors are having the most significant impact.
Virginia Tourism is a tremendous resource, there are multiple studies and resources available to help guide our decision-making.
According to the Louisa County FY23 budget over the last 4 years, sales tax has steadily increased. Meal’s tax, transient occupancy tax and landfill tipping fees have remained consistent, yet ALL have had significant increases in 2021. We believe it’s important to understand what is impacting this growth and how much of these revenue benefits have been supported by STRs within the County. Conversely, what’s the potential risk of changes to the STR industry?
While Lake Anna is the main attraction, we have other tremendous assets that support our economy and utilize STR and we need to understand the impact of these guidelines on them.
In a recent article published in our Love Louisa Guide, it was sited the original plans for Lake Anna indicated two million visitors annually by the year 2000. Lake Anna supports over one hundred residential communities along the shoreline with anticipated growth over ten times the national average. In fact, the Lake Anna Food Lion is one of the highest grossing on the East Coast.
We are not the first community to face these issues. There are thousands of lake communities across the US, Virginia alone has thirteen lakes that likely face some of our same issues. Environmental companies are a great resource to explore the risks to water quality as it relates to septic and other concerns. There have been studies in other communities to demonstrate impact overtime that could provide us with valuable information. We believe it would be worthwhile to gain input from other communities on strategies, obstacles, partnerships, and results they have experienced to assist us with determining our approach.
Without a doubt, Lake Anna is critical to our economy, and we fully support efforts to protect it.
After discussions with four member property management businesses that collectively manage roughly 150 STR around Lake Anna, most of the proposed guidelines are standard practice and adherence to state and local ordinances is priority. Additionally, the success of their business relies heavily on well-maintained properties, safety guidelines, protection of property, community support and sustainability of the lake.
There is agreement there are isolated cases of improperly managed STR properties and solutions are needed for those; however, what are the potential risks to the industry as a whole without accommodation for the size, scope, variety, location, management of the industry throughout Louisa County?
Proposed items B4, C, G and I present the greatest concern and we’d like the opportunity to further discuss and evaluate impacts to this industry.
With more time, we feel we can identify more concrete data and solutions to help with some of the more pressing concerns:
- Impact of failing septic systems due to old age, overuse, or damaged drain fields across all three counties impacting Lake Anna
- Community relations to support a growing economy and peaceful living
- Develop processes that will not burden the County resources
We believe that it would be in every stakeholder’s best interest to dedicate time and effort to evaluate this matter further. Therefore, we respectfully request the Planning Commission further investigate the proposed short term rental guidelines with a work group from across Louisa and Lake Anna consisting of the County, businesses, property managers, independent owners and HOA/POA representatives and revisit this matter with more information, potential solutions, and better understanding of a positive path forward.