BLACKSBURG – Charles Saunders of Blacksburg addressed Blacksburg Town Council during the citizen comments session of the Aug. 22 meeting concerning the zoning laws of properties in the town.
Specifically, Saunders is concerned that homes are purchased for the purpose of having a place available to stay during football games and then renting the property out at other times.
“As I researched deeper, I’ve found that these homes are actually zoned for single-family residential, and they are being partitioned in a way that gives the property owner a place to live while they visit, while the renter pays the mortgage,” Saunders said. “When a property owner purchases a home and closes off part of the house, a floor plan that would leave you to believe that there are adequate fire exits now only has one way out.”
Section 1271 of the Blacksburg Town Ordinance describes the general provisions that homeowners must meet to qualify for an accessory apartment permit. Some of the main points that Saunders brings to the attention of the Council is that some properties are being listed as accessory apartments although the residence does not meet with safety requirements for proper fire exits.
Additionally, these specific rental properties are only permitted in RR1, RR2 and R4 zoning districts, and are not “by right” as stated in Section 1270 of the Town Code; therefore, requiring homeowners to require a permit for an accessory apartment.
Deborah Olsen, of Blacksburg, expressed concern over the increasing taxes that Blacksburg residents are being asked to pay to maintain a modest home in the town.
“My question is this: in light of our expanded tax base, why were taxes raised to precipitously this year?” Olsen said. “I realize the assessments went up enormously, but that does not constitute an apriority rationale of tax increases from 20-50 percent.”
One example of the expanded tax base Olsen referred to is the many multiple dwelling, high density apartment complexes that house Virginia Tech University students and other university-affiliated employees and their families. These properties contribute a large amount of tax dollars to the town, according to a panel on affordable housing given attended recently by Olsen. Olsen additionally made a recommendation to the Council for improved sharing of information with Blacksburg citizens on community development issues.
“I would strongly recommend a similar panel be convened on a broader public stage with a video option to help with communication about housing and development issues,” she said.
The Town Council has unanimously approved the extension of the operating agreement with the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation for one year. The agreement extension was made in the hopes of allowing more time for discussions to take place to provide the best course of action for the museum moving forward.
Christine King thanked Blacksburg Council members for their support and in hearing concerns about the museum.
“Some of you spoke up and said that some things could be changed immediately, and an agreement was put forth and I just wanted to thank you for speaking up for us,” King said.
King also requested that future director appointments of the museum should be an individual that is culturally and professionally non-biased and someone who will follow museum curating standards.
A copy of the Resolution to Renew the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation Operating Agreement may be found in the Blacksburg Town Council meeting agenda at www.blacksburg.gov.
Other consent agenda items approved by the Council during the meeting were The Housing and Urban Development Citizens Participation Plan, a resolution to approve two bank franchise tax refunds, and an authorization to accept a Special Warranty Deed for a 0.07-acre property near Harding Road.