Short term rentals take center stage with public hearing Tuesday

Short term rentals take center stage with public hearing Tuesday
Short term rentals have been studied by city of Wilmington staffers for more than two years. (Source:WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Tuesday night will be your last chance to voice your opinion on a contentious debate that has inundated the City of Wilmington for the past three years.

By Tuesday night, Wilmington could be one step closer to having some new regulations on the books for short term rentals in city limits.

"I have seen an issue come before us that was like this," councilman Charlie Rivenbark said. "It's like an octopus. It's got so many moving parts to it, whole-house, homestay, districts, bedrooms, parking. It's like squeezing a balloon full of water. You squeeze it here and it pops out here and there, always with ramifications."

City staffers say they believe there are roughly 400 active rentals inside city limits.

The proposal published on the city's website Friday would allow homestay lodging in residential districts and whole-house and homestay lodging in some commercial and mixed-use districts. Homestay lodging is basically renting out a room to someone in a home where the owner also lives while whole-house lodging would allow the owner to rent the entire structure to someone for a maximum of 29 days.

City officials researched many cities that are much like the Port City before coming up with a proposal. At Monday morning's agenda briefing, council members discussed possibly limiting homestays to less than three bedrooms.

"The benchmark cities that we look at, like Charleston and Asheville, do have similar traits to Wilmington, in that they're tourist destinations, and they have a thriving downtown district," said Dylan Lee, city spokesperson. "In our case, of course, it's very historic. That's where a lot of the activity is for these types of rentals."

"The things we have looked at are what other cities have done and most of them have struggled with it as well," said council member Kevin O'Grady. "This is a new type of business that doesn't fit into any existing code so the city has to adjust."

The proposal does not include regulations for whole-house lodging in residential districts, which would mean, according to the published document, that you could not do that inside city limits. Staffers indicate they plan to bring a proposal for that use at a later council meeting.

"It's important to balance the needs of the industry, those that like to travel that way, and those that are making income that way, with the needs of the neighborhoods, and to make sure that it's not detrimental to the neighborhood, and that's a tricky balance," Lee said. "That's one that cities across the world have been dealing with, and that's precisely what we're dealing with."

"I think tomorrow will be positive and most will be in favor," said council member Clifford Barnett. "We have to have some regulations and because tourism is a big part of our economy and people nowadays enjoy staying with other people other families rather than a hotel."

You can read the proposal below:

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