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Henrico community fighting to keep ‘nightmare’ Airbnb out of their neighborhood

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A Henrico community is fighting to keep an Airbnb out of the neighborhood.

“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 said. "We never know who is going to staying across the street.”

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

“We just never know who is going to be here, we never know what’s going to be going on in that house and it’s really frightening,” said Acosta. “It’s completely disrupted our sense of safety and quality of life.”

Valerie Acosta

Acosta is one of numerous neighbors upset over the neighborhood's short-term rental property.

“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.

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.”

That meeting came after the county served the Coventry homeowner with a notice of violation on October 23. It stated that the short-term rental of the property violated the county zoning ordinance.

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.

"I don’t want to make any comments prior to the hearing," the homeowner said when asked for comment. "However I may have something to say after.”

According to her appeal, she claims she is within county code, she’s being singled out and that she’s done no harm to her neighbors.

“To hear her say we haven’t been impacted was surprising,” said Acosta. “She is not willing and has never felt the impact of any of the renters and we have.”

“What’s most significantly impacting our safety and quality of life is there is no one who owns that home living in that home when it’s being rented, so she never knows who is there and we never know who is there,” Acosta added.

Acosta says since the property was listed as a short-term rental, half of her neighbors in her once quiet cul-de-sac have moved.

“Four families have sold their homes and moved out of Henrico County because they have been so concerned about this,” said Acosta.

The Henrico woman said crime has climbed in the last two years as well and they have had to install security cameras around their property.

“It’s been horrible, the number of cars broken into in our neighborhood has increased, someone attempted to break into our back door. A house a few doors over was broken into, money was stolen, the master bedroom, the mattress was set on fire. We didn’t have those things happening prior to this starting up on our street,” said Acosta.

While there was no evidence that any criminal activity was the result of the Airbnb rental, Acosta said she wanted to get back to feeling at home.

“We want our quality of life back, we want our peace and security back. We’d like to have our neighborhood back, it’s a great place to live,” Acosta said.

“Your opposition might say, ‘It’s my house I can do what I want with it,’" CBS 6 reporter Laura French asked.

 

“I don’t believe we all have the right to do whatever we want in our neighborhoods,” responded Acosta.  “As citizens we have to be mindful and respectful of our neighborhood and our community. People don’t have the right in Henrico to run a hotel or wedding venue in a residential community.”

The Henrico County Board of Zoning Appeals will hold a public hearing on this issue January 25 at 9 a.m. in the board room of the county administration building.

A final decision on this case is expected.

Acosta will be making a presentation at that hearing.

“She’s saying she feels she should continue to be allowed to continue to open this unregulated hotel, filming venue across the street, so we have to take off and go to court on Thursday to talk about how we have been negatively impacted the past two years,” said Acosta.

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