Berlin Planning Ordinance Regulating Short-Term Rentals

Berlin Planning Ordinance Regulating Short-Term Rentals
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BERLIN – Officials in Berlin are drafting an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals following concern from residents.

Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, told the Berlin Planning Commission last week his department was working on an ordinance to limit short-term rentals in town. Members of the commission have expressed frustration in recent months about short-term rentals and the growing use of online platforms such as Airbnb.

“We’re very concerned,” commission member Ron Cascio said.

Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood told the commission he and Engelhart had been discussing various aspects of a potential ordinance to limit short-term rentals in most parts of town. Fleetwood said it was a difficult issue because there were two sides. Homeowners who rent out their space want to earn revenue, while homeowners who live next door to a property rented on a short-term basis don’t want their quality of life impacted.

Commission member John Barrett, who acknowledged that he owns a lot of traditional rental properties, agreed that it was a complicated issue.

“It’s tough,” he said. “I don’t know what the right answer is.”

Engelhart said his current view was that short-term rentals in the town’s R-1 residential district might be alright if the home was owner occupied. He said he also viewed short-term rentals as permitted in commercially zoned areas as well as areas with R-3 zoning.

Engelhart’s department still needs to decide what qualifies as a short-term rental. He said the county regulations set anything less than 28 days as a short-term rental.

He added that the town did not currently have a huge number of properties being used as short-term rentals.

“We’re not overrun with it like some areas,” he said. “Not yet. We’re trying to react to it now so we can be ahead of the curve.”

Commission member Pete Cosby indicated he thought officials needed to ensure the town’s character was protected.

“I think Berlin’s biggest quality is its community, family oriented spirit,” he said.

Engelhart said his department should have a draft of the ordinance to regulate short-term rentals for review early in the new year.

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.