After another lengthy discussion about regulating short-term rentals in Lynchburg, city council reached consensus on a few key issues during a work session Tuesday.
A motion to remove owner-occupied restrictions in the R-1, R-2 and R-C districts passed 4-3, with council members Randy Nelson, MaryJane Dolan and Mayor Treney Tweedy voting against the motion.
After deliberations Aug. 13, council considered requiring short-term rentals be owner-occupied in only R-C and R-1 districts. Tweedy moved to reconsider the decision Tuesday.
“This is complicated; it’s really challenging,” said at-large councilman Beau Wright, who voted in favor of the motion. “Right now, our touch should remain as light as possible.”
The decision means hosts of short-term rentals do not have to occupy the space being rented out. Short-term rentals include any space rented for less than 30 days, such as Airbnb rentals.
Ward IV Councilman Turner Perrow, who also voted in favor of the motion, made the point many short-term rental owners have an incentive to maintain and improve the aesthetics of their properties, benefiting the neighborhoods they’re in.
“If they don’t do well, they’re not going to be able to rent it out anymore. It polices itself,” Ward III Councilman Jeff Helgeson said. “Everybody cares about themselves and they care about their property.”
Council also discussed options for the number of guests allowed per short-term rental and voted 6-1 to mandate a maximum of four unrelated individuals per dwelling unit, with Helgeson voting against the motion.
Lastly, Mitch Nuckles, commissioner of the revenue, presented options for registration fees for short-term rental property owners.
A motion for a one-time $150 registration fee was passed 5-2, with Helgeson and Perrow voting against the motion.
“I don’t understand how this is equitable,” Helgeson said. “I don’t think it’s a good thing; it’s just another fee.”
Nelson said the city’s knowledge and record of short-term rental property owners should be the main reason for requiring owners to register. The fee helps cover $51,000 in city costs to for staff and a third-party service to monitor short-term renters.
“It took longer than any of us expected,” said Nelson of Tuesday’s discussion. City council has been discussing the topic since January and did not take a formal vote on the overall ordinance Tuesday. Council will continue deliberations at the next work session.
He said council still needs to discuss how the registration fee affects property owners who infrequently rent units.
“I think everyone thought it would be resolved today, but there was some really valuable conversations we had that kept us in place and we couldn’t move forward,” Nelson said.
Olivia Johnson covers the city of Lynchburg for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5537.