Letter and photos provided by Dana Robbins
A personal letter to City Council about the proposed short term regulations that would shut down my beloved airbnbs or short term rentals!
They’re voting on these superfluous regulations this Tue at 7pm at City Council! Please come support me and your property owners rights!
Dear Members of City Council,
My name is Dana Robbins and I live in the greater Hilton area of our city. I want to share a little bit of personal background because I think it is imperative to the nature of what we are discussing and the potential ramifications for other individuals like myself should the proposed regulations for short-term rentals be passed.
I have been in real estate for 12 years which was a sink or swim career move as I was navigating a divorce and starting over completely on my own at 32 years old without a college education or any financial assistance from my family. I have grown a successful business and raised my now teenage sons over the last 12 years. In the last 2 years I started carefully purchasing investment properties, and purchased two homes in my beloved Hilton neighborhood! I had previously managed an Airbnb in Hilton for a client and saw how successful and fun it was and knew that this could be a fantastic investment for my children’s college education and my own retirement since I only started my career in my mid 30s.
Fast-forward to today and I have two amazing Hilton homes that I have poured a lot of money, time and love into making comfortable and beautiful getaway homes for people traveling to the area to visit family at all of our local military bases, CNU students, vacation between Williamsburg to VB, Huntington Ingalls, JLab, & NASA employees, concerts at the Hampton convention center, and many families in the area use them to house family coming in from out of town. While my guests range anywhere from 1 night to to 2 weeks, I also have helped a displaced family for 3 months who needed a place to stay after their home flooded.
My short term rentals are within walking distance of 9 eateries and many other retail shops, all of which are promoted to my guests when they book. I get countless thank you notes for sharing the locally owned restaurants that otherwise these out of area visitors likely wouldn’t frequent if they were staying at a hotel 5 miles away and didn’t have a local’s review and suggestion of them. I also regularly employ several local small business owners from handymen, painters, landscapers, and cleaners not to mention my own children for taking out the trash weekly and mowing the lawn.
By the nature of the short term rental business model, I can’t live at my primary home and my 2 investment properties simultaneously, nor could I if they were long term rentals so I fail to understand why I wouldn’t have the right to own a property and use it as I see fit if it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others around.
In the four years I have managed an Airbnb and the last two years of owning them I have never had a complaint from a neighbor other than blocking a difficult to see driveway. My guests are given very explicit instructions that loud noises are not tolerated after 10 PM, this is a quiet family oriented neighborhood and parties are not allowed, and that if I receive any complaints from neighbors I have the right to ask my guests to leave immediately as they are just that in our neighborhood…a guest. If I have a long-term tenant at my property, I do not have the right to get rid of a problematic situation in such a swift capacity. Furthermore, if I have a long term tenant I don’t have the opportunity to keep such a close eye on my historic home and ensure that everything is working properly as I do when I or my cleaners are in the home on a weekly basis.
The last property I purchased in Hilton needed significant work and the other person considering buying it was just going to turn it into a rental and not do any work before they put a new tenant in it. That is significantly different than the over $25,000 I have poured in it to bringing it back to life and increasing the values of homes around it! I’m an active part of revitalizing my community and ensuring it’s safe for all!
The short term owners I know, who I would strongly argue represent the majority, deeply care about their homes, neighborhoods, and city! We are investing here for a reason.
The benefits of short-term rentals in our city which give the hidden gems of Newport News additional exposure, support entrepreneurialism and bring in revenue to the city and it’s citizens far outweigh the complaints of owners who regardless of regulations will likely ignore them anyway. Please don’t penalize my successful business endeavor which is a win for the neighborhood, for myself as a property owner, and for the city because of those who are going to break the rules regardless.
I implore you to reconsider the main over-arching regulation which would shut down the majority of short-term rentals including mine due to having to live in the property a certain amount of time out of the year. There are many other cities throughout the United States that do not have this overlay.
I understand this is something that the city discussed several years ago and has been sitting idle but I would also strongly encourage you to have some more Citizen-based discussions with those of involved as the short term rental dynamic has changed so much over the last two years.
I greatly appreciate your consideration of these factors and hope that you will give strong consideration to those who this will most adversely impact including myself and many other residents of Newport News.
If you would like to share an email in favor of supporting entrepreneurialism and encouraging positive growth in our city, please email city council and let them know these regulations will shut down good people trying to promote growth and tax revenue in the city of Newport News!