Berlin Evaluating Short-Term Rental Ban Or Zoning Limitations

Berlin Evaluating Short-Term Rental Ban Or Zoning Limitations
Current Airbnb options and pricing are pictured in Berlin. Image courtesy of Airbnb's website

BERLIN – Short-term rentals could soon be restricted in Berlin.

Members of the town’s planning commission discussed their desire to see short-term rentals prohibited in Berlin at a meeting last week. In an interview this week, Mayor Gee Williams said he too felt as if it was time for the town to implement some regulation to curb the growing trend.

“It’s now reached a point in the evolution of the Airbnb trend that it’s time for us to address it as a small town that’s attractive to many visitors,” Williams said.

Last Wednesday, members of the town’s planning commission instructed Planning Director Dave Engelhart to begin researching ways other jurisdictions had successfully regulated short-term rentals. They said the town needed to address the issue before it became a problem.

“We need to do something,” commission member Newt Chandler said.

Engelhart said town staff had already been discussing the issue, as his office occasionally received calls asking about short-term rentals in town.

“We get an empty property that needs some work, the first call I get is from a real estate investor,” Engelhart said. “’Can I do this there?’ And I say well, we don’t have a prohibition but we also don’t have anything that allows you to do it, so my judgment would be no you can’t do Airbnb there. That’s how I’ve been operating.”

Commission member Pete Cosby said short-term rentals operated like hotels so perhaps should only be permitted in areas where hotels were permitted.

“I think we need to look at a conditional use or prohibition,” he said.

Williams said he too thought it was time for the town to consider restrictions on short-term rentals considering their growing popularity.

“Currently they’re not allowed in the code but that doesn’t keep them from happening,” he said.

Williams met with town staff to discuss the issue last Friday and said the planning commission would be reviewing potential language for the code in the coming months.

“My expectation is early in the year recommendations from the planning commission will be ready,” he said.

He said that personally, he had some ideas on how to ensure short-term rentals didn’t become too prevalent in Berlin.

“My feeling is we should limit short-term rentals to areas zoned B-1 and B-2 only and we shouldn’t allow them in our residential neighborhoods,” he said. “Noise is one of the key considerations but also it creates an immediate parking problem.”

Williams said language for the code would be drafted by Engelhart and the planning commission and then forwarded to the town council for consideration in 2020.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.