BEDFORD — Bedford’s planning commission is recommending the approval of a zoning ordinance amendment that would define and regulate short-term rentals if approved next week by the Bedford Town Council.

The Bedford Planning Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to recommend amending the town’s Land Development Regulation to adopt a new zoning use for short-term rentals, which would including Airbnb’s. The Bedford Town Council is scheduled to consider the proposed ordinance change during its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday.

According to town staff reports, the planning commission in August directed staff to draft an ordinance that would define short-term rentals in the town as well as areas where the use of short-term rentals would be a by-right use or require a special-use permit from the town. The town’s current regulations do not define the use of private property for commercial residential uses.

During a public hearing on the proposed ordinance in October, Darren Shoen — the town council’s representative on the planning commission — voiced concerns about which districts short-term rentals would be allowed as a by-right use.

“I think we should ask whether or not this is something we want to do,” Shoen said. “I don’t have a problem with the zoning in Centertown districts, but I see a lot of downsides in doing it in residential districts.”

Commission member James Towner during the October meeting said the town needed to establish some type of zoning that addresses short-term rentals.

“This is already being done without regulations,” Towner said. “We need to have something to go by.”

According to the proposed ordinance draft, a short-term rental would be defined as the renting of a single-family dwelling, or rooms within, for commercial lodging where guests stay for less than 30 consecutive days.

The proposed ordinance states the owner of the property does not need to reside there if the occupant is renting a house, but would have to reside at the property if the occupant is renting a room or single-level dwelling unit of a property.

The proposed ordinance states property owners in R-1 (single-family residential) or R-2 (multi-family residential units like duplexes) districts would require a special use permit from the town in order to use the property for short-term rentals. The ordinance also would calculate a maximum occupancy for each property — which is based on two people over the age of 5 years old per bedroom — and require that off-street parking be equal to one space for each rented room.

Under the proposed ordinance, short-term rentals at properties in R-3 (high-density residential), LP (limited professional) and B-1 (limited business) districts are considered as a permitted or by-right use. However, the ordinance, if approved, would set the maximum number of bedrooms to rent at two, limit the number of guests to no more than five people and require off-street parking be equal to one space for each rented room.

The proposed zoning ordinance now is scheduled to go to the Bedford Town Council on Tuesday, where it can be approved, rejected or amended by council members, Town Manager Bart Warner said.

“I think some people were concerned about short-term rentals in the residential neighborhoods,” Warner said. “I agree that we needed something to establish where in town it would be allowed and to what extent, especially in the R-1 districts.”

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Reporter

Shannon Keith covers Bedford County for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5530.

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