By Carol Vaughn —
The Parksley Town Council held a public hearing Monday to receive comment about adding an ordinance allowing for the collection of transient occupancy taxes.
Three residents attended the hearing.
Council members answered questions about the proposed ordinance, which if approved would be one of several steps being considered to help regulate short-term, Airbnb-type, rental businesses.
“This is not a foregone conclusion,” said Mayor Frank Russell, adding officials want residents’ input.
None of the council members said they are against the concept of short-term homestay rentals in town. The council plans to work out details of how to regulate such businesses during upcoming work sessions.
Councilman Dan Matthews reviewed steps the council needs to take — including developing registration procedures for short-term rentals, developing regulations to protect all parties, establishing rules for taxation and collection of the taxes by the town, and establishing a timeframe for implementation.
Among questions the council needs to consider are: what will the application fee, if any, be; what documentation will owners be required to submit; what will the town require regarding property maintenance; what zoning changes are needed to allow businesses to operate in the residential area; how many days per year can owners rent out their property; what is the maximum number of renters allowed at one time; what parking limitations are required; how will the owner ensure renters’ safety; what will the penalties be for violation of regulations; and how will the town enforce regulations.
Matthews said because hundreds of other localities have addressed short-term rentals already, “We can learn from their mistakes.”
Russell said he would like to see included an ordinance about off-street parking for the businesses and an upfront registration fee.
Allowing and regulating short-term rentals could encourage property owners to fix up houses in town.
“There’s a lot of folks in town that have houses that need a lot of work” and need a way to make money to help finance it, Russell said.
Councilman Henry Nicholson said one owner with whom he spoke recently, who owns several properties on the Eastern Shore, would like to operate a short-term homestay business rather than renting the home for a longer term.
He said the town could require annual inspections, as the Department of Housing and Urban Development does.
Nicholson also said officials need to take into account the effect on town employees’ time.
“You can keep track of your property better” with short-term rentals, Russell said.
Matthews said developing the appropriate regulations is key.
“You don’t want somebody from outside of town buying up properties, turning them into Airbnb rentals, and then that’s it,” he said, adding, “There’s a balance between being livable Parksley and allowing this to happen, which I think is a good thing overall.”
The council set no deadline to develop and implement a short-term rental policy.