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Planning Panel Schedules Work Session On Short Term Rentals

By Cece Nunn, posted May 26, 2017
The city of Wilmington has scheduled a special work session for the Planning Commission on the topic of potential changes to short-term rental rules.

While the City Council has had numerous discussions on the topic and the city has held public input meetings, the Planning Commission work session set for June 7 will be the first time the topic will be part of a Planning Commission meeting.

The work session is open to the public, but there won't be an opportunity for the public to speak. That will come later at a public hearing if proposed changes are considered during a regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting, officials said.

After a presentation on potential regulations at a City Council meeting earlier this month, Wilmington officials asked the city's staff to put together a draft ordinance. 

"Any time we do that [consider a new ordinance] we certainly want to take everything into consideration and understand the background and have that opportunity to really ask questions and digest it, so that when it is on our agenda and the public has an opportunity to speak, we then feel like we can ask intelligent questions and understand what it’s about," said Deb Hays, chairwoman of the Planning Commission.

City staff members will go through the potential ordinance details during the 4 p.m. meeting in City Council Chambers, and Planning Commission members might then give them some direction on what could be tweaked or what they might consider important for the ordinance to include, Hays said.

The regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting for June 7, which is expected to have one item only, will take place at 6 p.m., but if the commission members feel they need more time to discuss short-term rentals, they can do so after the regular meeting, Hays explained.

In a draft of potential short-term rental rules put together by the city’s staff and presented to the City Council on May 15, a homestay would be treated like a bed-and-breakfast establishment.

It would be defined as “a type of home occupation that involves the rental of individual bedrooms within a dwelling unit that provides lodging for pay, for a continuous period of 89 days or less, that does not include serving food, and to which the definition of ‘family’ does not apply.”

Short-term lodging would be defined in the same way except instead of individual bedrooms, the rental would involve the entire dwelling.

The May 15 session during which that draft was presented, some council members expressed frustration and discussed their disagreements about what should be done to regulate short-term lodging establishments, which have come to the attention of communities across the U.S. as the popularity of websites like Airbnb.com has been on the rise.

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