Onancock Nixes Short-Term Rental; Appropriates Second Round of CARES Act Funds; Tree Project Underway

This White Oak in downtown Onancock is at least 200 years old. Submitted photo.

By Carol Vaughn —

Onancock officials turned down an application for a special use permit to use an Ames Street residence as an Air BnB-type, short-term rental lodging.
The town council received two letters from neighbors and two people spoke at a public hearing at the Sept. 28 council meeting — all were against the use.
Sisters 9 LLC had applied for the permit for 7 Ames Street.
According to town ordinance, a homestay, the term used for short-term rentals, means a home occupation in which an individual owns a residence and also provides lodging in a portion of it for temporary periods not to exceed three weeks.
Town Manager Matt Spuck said the property met zoning requirements for the use and that conditions had been added.
Property owners are allowed to have only one such home occupation in Onancock, according to the ordinance.
Complaints made by four neighboring property owners included that former renters kept two pet monkeys in a large cage on the rear deck, vehicles were parked on the yard, lawn furniture from next door was taken and used, and the lawn was not maintained.
Additionally, in the past a large number of migrant workers appeared to be living at the house, according to a neighbor’s letter read into the meeting record.
“The owner does not take any supervision of the people renting the property,” said Robert Roberts, who owns a residence on Ames Street.
“Air BnB’s are great…but to me, if it’s going to be an Air BnB, the owner should be living on the property,” he said.
The town council voted to deny the permit, with members citing the neighbors’ objections.

CARES Act Funds

The council approved appropriating a second round of CARES Act funds, in the amount of $106,333, for several uses, including $37,000 for another round of grants to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; $25,000 for building improvements to promote safety for employees and customers; and $11,333 for technology to improve remote work options, among other items.
A reserve of $25,000 from the funding was set aside to help pay up to 80 hours of employee sick leave required by the Family Firast Corona Response Act and the town’s infectious disease plan.
Personal protective equipment for employee use and to distribute to residents and businesses accounted for $2,000, and another $5,000 will go for additional grants of up to $250 each to reimburse small businesses for expenses for sanitizing and personal protective equipment.
Another $1,000 will go to pay for thermometers and other items to verify employee safety.
Spuck in his report to council said town employees have been trained on the town’s infectious disease plan, which council adopted at its Aug. 24 meeting.
Related procedures began Sept. 25, as is required by the state’s emergency temporary workplace standards.

White Oak Project Underway

A project to care for the 220-year-old White Oak tree behind Roseland Theatre is underway, after Onancock was awarded a grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry.
Work includes canopy cleaning. Additional work will not take place until after property lines are marked and an arborist is consulted about pavement surrounding the tree.
Additional work will include lightning protec tiooon, cabling around some of the lower branches, possibly removing some of the asphalt encroaching on the root system, and landscaping under the tree, according to Spuck.
The total cost is $11,000. The forestry department granted more than 40% of the cost, and much of the town’s share will be made in-kind from staff and volunteer time spent on the project.

New Council Member Appointed

The council appointed Thelma Gillespie to fill the seat vacated by Shyreka Riley, after Riley resigned. Riley was appointed in June to fill Matt Spuck’s former seat after he was hired as town manager. Gillespie’s term will run until June 30, 2022.

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