Wrightsville Beach to discuss future of short term rentals, consider possible regulations

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 2:07 PM EDT
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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Short-term rentals have become a point of contention not only in places like Wilmington, where full-time residents are pushing back against the transient nature of rentals, but in places like Wrightsville Beach, where they are ubiquitous.

How exactly municipalities are able to regulate short-term rentals has been a debate in and of itself. For some, the idea of the government telling homeowners what they can or can’t do with their home is too much. That perceived government overstep is what led to the ongoing lawsuit against the City of Wilmington after a judge ruled the city’s regulations were ‘void and unenforceable.’

The lawsuit, which is currently in the North Carolina Court of Appeals, likely will set the precedent across the state, but it seems that some municipalities are not waiting for the outcome before considering their own rules.

In Wrightsville Beach, according to Town Manager Tim Owens, there has been discussion regarding the possible regulation of short-term rentals and whole-house rentals on Harbor Island. Currently, there are no restrictions placed on rentals in Wrightsville Beach, but town leaders have several things to consider. including defining whole-house rental, short-term rental, and homestay accommodations.

“We would want to define, you know, what a short term rental is, what a whole-house rental is and the terms and the amount of times they are rented as well as any type of home stay situation so we need to define that and then if we decide to regulate come up with some smart regulations,” Owens said.

The town still is in the earliest of talks and there are no guarantees that they will regulate rentals at all, Owens said, but it does appear this will be a conversation that town leaders are going to have. The economic impact that short-term rentals have on tourist towns like Wrightsville Beach is not insignificant either. Room occupancy tax helps fund projects like beach nourishment, and tourists often spend money locally when visiting.

“There’s a lot of short-term rentals obviously this just became a concern of Harbor Island, some residents of harbor island, a short-term rental basically popped up there and someone bought the property and used it as a short-term rental so there’s been some concerns with it there on Harbor Island,” Owens said.

The Board of Aldermen will meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss their thoughts, and possible options moving forward.

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