Group homes, Airbnb on city's legislative agenda

Contact Reporterwwright@vagazette.com

City Council members want the General Assembly to rethink the rules surrounding the taxation of internet-based businesses, as well as those dictating how group homes communicate with localities.

Localities across the state are compiling legislative agendas to pass to local legislative representatives for the 2018 General Assembly session, which begins in January.

Assistant City Manager Andrew Trivette said the city is asking the state to require Internet-based business to pay their taxes according to the full cost of a room.

Internet-based rental companies such as Airbnb and FlipKey don’t necessarily pay what they should in taxes, city officials think.

“Oftentimes, the tax that’s applied, if there is tax applied, is only applied to the room rate that the company pays,” Trivette said.

Other miscellaneous fees — including the cost those companies pay to book a room — should be taxed, he said.

"If taxes apply to brick and mortars, they should also apply to online businesses," Trivette said.

Group homes

A group home run by mental health nonprofit group Gateway Homes of Greater Richmond opened less than 500 feet from Walsingham Academy in September 2016.

The concern among city officials and residents was that the group home could house violent or sexual offenders who were found not guilty by reason of insanity.

In May, Gateway Homes representatives moved the operation from 101 Woodmere Drive to 308 S. Boundary St.

Group homes report to the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, but neither the state nor the group home is required to tell the locality about changes to the facility.

City staff wants a law in place in which localities are alerted when a group home wants to move their business there. They’d prefer the alert comes before the group home gets a license to operate.

"We're not at all saying we don't want them or can't have them," Trivette said. "We just want to be notified."

Council member Doug Pons said he was satisfied with the list of priorities the city has deemed important for the coming session.

"It’s representative of all the things we've talked about over the last several months," he said.

Council members will formally vote on the legislative agenda at their Nov. 9 meeting.

In December, the city will hold a public meeting where local elected officials can speak with city staff and the public about the issues on the city’s legislative agenda. The General Assembly will convene on Jan. 10.

Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.

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