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Real Estate - Residential

OpEd: City Should Move Past Short-term Rental Debate

By Tyler Newman, posted Jan 22, 2019
BASE, Business Alliance for a Sound Economy, is an organization that advocates for business and industry in southeastern North Carolina. Our mission is to support public policy that attracts a mix of business and industry and enhances economic opportunities in southeastern North Carolina.
 
With a decision potentially imminent, we wanted to again offer our perspective on the complicated short-term rental issue. Fortunately, our city remains a major destination community with a huge tourism component. Yet, as we saw following the storm, we still have housing availability challenges. As a region, we continue to see significant economic benefit from lodging options that meet the needs of a range of potential visitors, guests and local citizens.
 
As we move forward, as the Comprehensive Plan illustrates, our community will have a growing need to embrace mixes of uses within districts in our small urban footprint. 
 
Unfortunately, as noted in the staff report and proven by the Planning Commission votes, there isn’t a silver bullet to address the perceived short-term rental problem. This is further supported by the wide range of approaches shown in the Benchmark Cities analysis. Many other municipalities in a range of states have tried – and failed – to get their arms around this complex property rights issue.
 
In North Carolina, there appear to be unanswered questions regarding short-term rental ordinances and how they comply with North Carolina law (single-family use) and the Vacation Rental Act. Based on the experiences of other cities in North Carolina and the fact that entities like the UNC School of Government, General Assembly and Real Estate Commission haven’t weighed in, we would reiterate the path forward is unclear. 
 
Throughout this lengthy process, the concerns that we have heard regarding short-term rentals don’t really deal with the short-term or long-term length of stay – it seems to be more about the behavior of the potential occupant. Thus, the issue is really about enforcement.
 
As yet, we have not seen specific data on noise or trash or parking infractions directly tied to rentals in the city. If an ordinance moves forward, the city will have to invest in administration, staff and technology to administer this ordinance. If we are going to create a new city department and staff it, is short-term rental enforcement the most pressing need?
 
In closing, while we appreciate the hard work, we would like to again formally request that this issue be set aside.
 
Instead of being mired down with this topic, we encourage Wilmington City Council to direct city planning staff to focus their time on 1) facilitating investments moving through the approval process and 2) strongly coordinating efforts with New Hanover County, as both entities overhaul their respective development ordinances. 
 
Tyler Newman is president and CEO of Business Alliance for a Sound Economy.
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