After the Lynchburg Planning Commission held four meetings on short-term rentals and city council voted to push the regulations of the proposed ordinance off in May, council held a work session Tuesday evening to resume deliberations on the high-profile draft ordinance.
After a two-hour work session, council members agreed to seek more information from staff on items including the maximum number of occupants per home and a registration fee for short-term rental operators.
No date has been set for a formal vote by city council on the proposed ordinance.
In March, the planning commission recommended approval of a draft ordinance that would allow short-term rentals citywide, but would require the owners of properties in residential zones R-1, R-2 and R-C to live in the homes full time. It also would allow no more than four unrelated individuals in a short-term rental and require owners to pay an annual registration fee of $150.
The short-term rentals would need to comply with building codes; the proposed recommendation states the city can revoke the rental permit if there are three violations.
During council’s meeting in May, Community Development Director Kent White said short-term rentals in Lynchburg experienced 117% growth between 2017 and 2018.
Deputy City Manager Reid Wodika said the goal is to end up with a clear definition of the city’s policies.
“What this means now is the operators don’t have anywhere to go to see what the rules and policies are and they have to call community development,” he said.
Councilman Turner Perrow suggested council look at the list the Lynchburg Planning Commission submitted back in May with the recommended draft and consider each point one by one.
Ward III Councilman Jeff Helgeson said he doesn’t think there are many problems surrounding current short-term rentals and said he wholeheartedly would rather his neighbors have a short-term rental with occupants who spend the night, pay more money and leave then have long-term renters.
Council decided to eliminate the proposed policy of having one additional parking space for each short-term rental, agreeing it would be difficult to enforce.
Council also asked the planning department to change the proposed ordinance so violations only are related to short-term rental use and not the property itself.
Martin said the $150 fee was a way to recoup staff time, but if council decided to accept a lodging tax collected by Airbnb, there would be no need for a registration fee.
At-large Councilman Randy Nelson said he was inclined to treat all overnight businesses such as hotel, motels and short-term rentals the same in having those businesses pay a lodging tax and recommended there be both a registration fee — less than $150 — and a lodging tax placed by Airbnb.
Council decided to spend more time on the element of the policy that looks at how many unrelated guests can stay in a rental at one time.
Helgeson said he was opposed to stifling the rights of private property owners. He said a cookie cutter approach is misplaced as each property cannot be treated the same, since some rentals have one bedroom and others may have four or more.
Ward I Councilwoman MaryJane Dolan said a short-term property should be owner occupied in districts R-1 and R-C —meaning the owner lives in the home full-time unless guests are renting.
“People who have bought homes and have families in these neighborhoods want to know they are stable and not have transient people coming in and out,” she said. “There are certain neighborhoods we protect and we need to protect the integrity of them.”
At-large Councilwoman and Mayor Treney Tweedy asked if those short-term renters who have multiple listings in the R-C, R-1 and R-2 zones could be grandfathered in so they don’t have to be penalized.
Martin said if those properties were grandfathered in they still would need to register and would have to let the city know as soon as the ordinance was passed.
“We don’t want to have to try and prove or disprove later that they were already operating those rentals,” he said.