The spillover effect of being in a market that’s gaining national attention as a tourist destination has prompted Henrico County to increase its tolerance for breweries and explore the best ways to manage homes temporarily rented out over the internet.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors passed two resolutions directing county staff to prepare zoning ordinance amendments for breweries, wineries and distilleries and short-term rentals arranged through websites like Airbnb. The forthcoming amendments will eventually go before the Planning Commission for review and recommendation after a public hearing.
Henrico’s current zoning laws make no mention of words like “craft brewery” or “brewpubs,” according to a staff presentation. With breweries and distilleries in Henrico typically allowed only in areas zoned for industrial uses, County Manager John Vithoulkas called it an effort “to roll out the welcome mat” for craft beer makers and others.
“We’ve had some entrepreneurs approach us that we haven’t been able to accommodate,” Planning Director Joe Emerson said. “We’ve got some cleaning up to do.”
County staff will look to clarify regulations better suited for industrial-scale operations and clarify how smaller operations like brewpubs and microbreweries will be treated. The forthcoming ordinance amendments will take into account changes to the state code that have fueled Virginia’s beer boom: In 2012, Virginia made it legal for breweries to offer tastings and sell their beer on-site and allowed fledgling breweries to use the facilities of more established beverage makers.
Two years later, the state opened the door for farm brewery operations similar to farm wineries. The beverage website VinePair recently named Richmond the world’s top beer destination for 2018.
“Over New York and Chicago?” Henrico Supervisor Tyrone Nelson of the Varina District asked, regarding Richmond’s ranking. “That’s amazing.”
As the county looks to update its ordinances for beverage makers, Henrico also hopes to freshen up its regulations for short-term rentals, which currently aren’t allowed in residential districts.
The Board of Supervisors directed county staff to begin work on regulations for hosted and unhosted stays; a hosted stay is when the hosts renting out a room or house stay on-site with their guests. County staff members plan to consider addressing operating and safety requirements, particularly when it comes to smoke detectors.
Henrico is also looking into creating a registry for short-term rental properties. In 2017, the Virginia General Assembly authorized localities to create a registry of short-term rentals and to regulate them through zoning. Websites like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway have made it easier for people to earn money renting out their homes for days and weeks at a time.
As people cash in on the opportunities provided by the online platforms, Henrico neighbors are taking issue with increased traffic and noise in their communities.
“This is great we’re attacking it,” said Supervisor Tommy Branin, who represents the Three Chopt District. “We need to be very careful and look at everything.”
In other matters, the board approved a proposal backed by The Rebkee Co. to develop a Wawa convenience store and gas station at the corner of North Parham and Three Chopt roads, a site currently occupied by a BP gas station.
The Wawa will not operate 24 hours a day, as is typical of other locations in the chain.