The owner of a Madison Heights residence has received approval from the Amherst County Board of Supervisors to operate the home as a short-term tourist rental.

The board during its June 18 meeting voted 3-1, with David Pugh opposed and Claudia Tucker absent, to grant the special exception request from Robert Fisher, who resides at 124 Melville Place. The 0.8-acre property is located in an R-2 (general residential) district and has access off Long Pine Drive near Seminole Drive.

The maximum number of residents for overnight stays is two adults per bedroom, according to the county. Fisher and his family will live in the residence and the short-term rental use is an avenue for paying toward the mortgage, he told board members.

He said he and his family would be most concerned if occupants caused excessive noise or disturbances and he doesn’t intend for that to happen, adding he will screen who comes in.

“It will be interfering with my life first,” Fisher said. “…I don’t intend for it to interfere with the surrounding neighbors.”

A few nearby residents raised concerns during a public hearing with allowing a tourist rental property in what one described as a “quiet, family-oriented residential community.” A resident of Triple Oak Circle said she has concerns with more traffic on a small, narrow road used a cut through and people parking on the street because of lack of driveway parking.

Pugh said he thinks the small acreage in a neighborhood could present potential conflicts.

“This is fairly new in the county, allowing these short-term rentals. I think a lot of it was designed for larger parcels in non-residential areas,” Pugh said. “I just don’t think this is the correct location to have short-term tourist rentals in a residential subdivision on less than an acre …I don’t think it suits in my estimation what we were looking for when we passed this [short-term rental] ordinance.”

Supervisor Jennifer Moore said she sees the request as a favorable use and could serve people coming to the area for events such as graduations.

“I look at the lack of lodging in Madison Heights or favorable housing and I see this bringing people into our county,” Moore said.

Pugh raised concern the county would have no method to rescind its approval if a short-term rental causes repeated issues in a neighborhood. County Attorney Michael Lockaby said state code allows the county to revoke a special exception for a pattern for violations and the board could consider adding such a tool in its ordinance.

The exception request comes with a board-imposed condition the home remains owned or occupied.

In other news:

Lockaby reported to the board on his researching a potential referendum during an election that could gauge the response among residents in putting tax dollars toward some of the costs of a potential YMCA facility in Amherst or Madison Heights. A recent study estimates the project could cost more than $12 million.

Lockaby said he believes the only way for a referendum to work is to bring a general bond issuance to residents and to do so the board would have to pass a resolution 81 days before an election.

The resolution would have to state the purpose for seeking the potential bonds and a possible aggregate amount, he said. Lockaby voiced a concern building a YMCA is considered a private activity and the county’s direct involvement in fundraising could present an issue with the Internal Revenue Service. The county may have to go through some contortions in that regard, he said.

If a referendum was to pass, he said in one scenario the county would have eight years to issue a bond and the community would have that time frame to raise a portion of the costs. The county wouldn’t be committed if that didn’t happen, he said.

“The referendum doesn’t commit you, it enables you,” Lockaby said.

The county during a June 4 meeting discussed a possible referendum to weigh the public’s reaction to a possible tax increase to offset some of the costs of a YMCA, but the board has made no firm decisions and gave no further direction to staff on the matter last week. After Lockaby’s report, Ayers said it is good information to have if the county goes that route at some point.

“Obviously, it’s very preliminary,” Ayers said of the YMCA discussions.

Ayers said the county should look at other options and he personally doesn’t prefer encumbering residents with a tax increase. Many folks who want it don’t want the burden of additional taxes to pay for it, Ayers said.

“It’s up to us to see what the community’s interest is,” he said.

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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