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Henrico mom told to stop renting home through Airbnb

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The Henrico County Board of Zoning Appeals voted to uphold the decision to prevent a mother from renting her home to guests through Airbnb. The board voted unanimously 5-0 after a public hearing Thursday morning in the board room of the county administration building.

The property, which is located in the Coventry neighborhood and owned by Michelle Slapshak, operated as a short-term rental from September 2015 until October 2017.

"I put my house up on Airbnb because of the bike race in 2015," Slapshak told the board. "I have very strict rules for my renters and they’ve followed every single one."

However, about 10 residents residing along the cul-de-sac submitted 10 letters of opposition to the neighborhood's short-term rental property.

“It’s just been a nightmare for us on this street in a sense that our quiet peaceful community is now filled with stranger," Valerie Acosta told CBS 6's Laura French. "We never know who is going to staying across the street.”

Acosta showed the Zoning Appeals board a PowerPoint presentation with photos of numerous cars parked in Slapshak's driveway and described a loss of sense of security.

“She’s been renting out the house to upwards of 16 people a night, she also used it as a filming venue to commercials. At least two commercials have been filmed there, as well as allowed the renters to have a wedding and wedding rehearsal there,” said Acosta.

Slapshak argued she only allows up to eight guests at  her home at one time and no longer allows events to take place in her backyard.

The Henrico County Zoning department said it has received complaints about Airbnbs in the county, but they received the most concerning the Coventry property.

“This has been the most egregious," Henrico County Director of Planning, R. Joseph Emerson said.

Emerson briefed the Henrico County Board of Supervisors about the Airbnb issue at its November 14, 2017 meeting.


“Our zoning code does not allow Airbnbs,” said Emerson. “It is a difficult use to regulate.”

The homeowner voluntarily complied and pulled the rental until her appeal request was heard January 25, at a public hearing before the Board of Zoning appeals.

Slapshack told the board that she was unfairly targeted, but accepts their decision.

"I had no issues with damage, trash or renters destroying my home," she said. "These are good people and I'm bringing them into my home."

Zoning Appeals Board Member Terone B. Green, who represents the Three Chopt district, said Thursday's decision only applies to Slapshak.

Currently, the Henrico Board of Supervisors is studying whether or not to allow Airbnb rentals in the future.

Action on about 200 other Airbnb users in Henrico County would be determined when the study's findings are returned.

In a statement, Slapshak wrote:

While we are disappointed with today’s outcome, I am a realist. A zoning ordinance from the 1950s does not promote or reflect today’s innovation in housing and small business. I was hopeful the BZA would delay action on a matter that affects almost 200 Airbnb owners until the board of supervisors deliberated on this matter with input from community meetings and public hearings. I believe public input and discourse is an important part of developing a county policy for Airbnb businesses. I remain hopeful that the board of supervisors will continue with the announced plans of reviewing Airbnb businesses and decide to support these businesses with sensible regulation so that these businesses continue to contribute to Henrico’s tourism economy.

It's unlawful in both Chesterfield County and Richmond for homeowners to use Airbnb, however Chesterfield residents can apply for a conditional use approval.

A check of the Airbnb website shows hundreds of properties currently available to rent in Metro Richmond.