Planning Commission to discuss short-term rentals, housing needs

Conversations will continue around short-term rentals in the city and housing affordability at the Planning Commission’s monthly comprehensive plan meeting on Oct. 24.

The board began discussing whether or not to recommend an ordinance at a meeting last July. If approved, the city would create a legal pathway for homeowners looking to rent out their homes through popular online services such as Airbnb, which does not exist in the city’s zoning ordinance.

City staff initially came to Planning Commission with two options for allowing short-term rentals in the city. The first method would allow transient visitors in the city to rent one bedroom in an owner-occupied single family home, and there would be no cap on the number of days that the homeowner would be able to rent the room per year. The second option would allow homeowners to rent their entire homes through short-term rental services for a maximum of 45 days per calendar year.

Both options would limit the number of adults allowed to occupy a rented bedroom to two, along with any children they may have. Homeowners also would be required to obtain a business license from the Commissioner of Revenue, and to maintain a record of all short-term rentals of their properties.

At its July meeting, the board agreed to table further discussion on the issue until it could gather additional public input. Last month, the board held a forum where more than 30 city residents attended and 14 spoke to the board on issues including short-term rentals such as Airbnbs, rental policies and affordable housing initiatives.

The board collected public input through an online survey and a housing forum last month. A total of 545 city residents participated in the survey and according to survey results, the majority of respondents agreed that the city should allow short-term rental of one bedroom and of the whole house in owner-occupied detached single-family dwellings.

“I’m hoping to get some guidance from them on which way to go, and from that discussion, we’ll do an ordinance if one is merited,” said Carolyn Murphy, the city’s director of planning and codes compliance.”If they say that, then staff would go and draw up and ordinance and put on Planning Commission agenda for a public hearing in December.”

If Planning Commission decides to approve short-term rental ordinance, the proposal would go before City Council for final approval at its regular meeting in January, Murphy said.

At the meeting, Williamsburg Health Foundation representatives will present the board with a study about the need for affordable housing in the city and how it relates to health. The presentation will be led by the organization’s director of strategic initiatives and program officer Kyra Cook and Bob Adams, the author of the study, according to Murphy.

Meeting details

Where: Council Chambers, Stryker Center (412 N. Boundary St.)

When: 4-6 p.m. Oct. 24

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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