BEDFORD — After months of debating a zoning ordinance amendment that would define and regulate short-term rentals in town limits, the Bedford Town Council unanimously agreed no new ordinances were needed regarding short-term rentals.
The town council voted unanimously Tuesday night against amending the town’s Land Development Regulation to adopt a new zoning for short-term rentals, which would include Airbnbs.
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.
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 property owners in Single-family Residential (R-1) or Multi-family residential (R-2) — which can have units such as 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 older than the age of 5 years old per bedroom — and require off-street parking be equal to one space for each rented room.
Under the proposed ordinance, short-term rentals at properties in High-density residential (R-3), Limited Professional (LP) and Limited Business (B-1) 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.
Town Councilman Darren Shoen expressed concern about the permitting of short-term rentals in Bedford’s residential neighborhoods.
“I have strong concerns about this being allowed in R-1 districts,” Shoen said. “Our strength is in our pretty nice neighborhoods. When you allow this, you don’t know what kind of people will be coming and going.”
Councilman Bryan Schley said he thought no new ordinances were needed in Bedford regarding short-term rentals.
“There is no great need to adopt this into the zoning ordinance,” Schley said. “There are some short-term rentals in town but not a lot of them.”
Bedford Mayor Steve Rush agreed.
“I think this ordinance is so complicated I don’t know how anyone could understand it,” Rush said. “And I don’t see how we could even enforce it.”
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve a motion supporting the Bedford County Board of Supervisors’ resolution declaring Bedford County a Second Amendment sanctuary, which was approved Monday.
“I have gotten a few calls asking if we were going to pass a similar resolution,” Rush said. “Since we are part of Bedford County, I didn’t see a need to do that but we wanted to show our support for the resolution that was passed Monday.”
The resolution — which was unanimously approved by the board of supervisors — expresses the board’s insistence that public funds “not be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Bedford County, or to aid federal or state agencies in the restriction of said rights” and the board “will not authorize or appropriate government funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers, or offices for the purpose of enforcing laws that unconstitutionally infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.”
Councilman Bruce Johannessen — who voted to support the motion — expressed some concerns about the county’s resolution.
“I am a gun owner and I support and appreciate the Second Amendment,” Johannessen said. “However, I am concerned whenever people pick and choose what laws to enforce, whether it is immigration or gun control.”
Shoen agreed any “constitutional laws” should be enforced by local officials but pointed out that the county’s resolution only refers to “unconstitutional laws.”