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Council approves Title 9 changes

By Staff | Nov 11, 2011

The Shepherdstown Town Council met Tuesday and voted on the first and second readings of changes to Shepherdstown’s Title 9 ordinance, as well as other town code.

The council unanimously voted to approve the second readings of both adoptions of Section 3-105, establishing that it is a misdemeanor crime for a person not permitted to purchase or drink alcohol by reason of age to use false identification for purchase, and Section 7A-120110, relating to the establishment of a misdemeanor crime for making or knowingly permitting obscene, anonymous harassing or threatening telephone calls.

The council also voted on the first reading of three ordinances related to changes in Title 9 and one ordinance related to animal cruelty.

Mayor Jim Auxer began the meeting by hearing public requests to speak. Residents expressed their concern over changes to the ordinance regarding short-term rentals.

Shepherdstown resident Nieltje Gedney owns a property German Street that she rents out to guests.

“I was not aware that this was a problem until I was presented with a summons,” she said.

Gedney spoke on behalf of the guests who’ve stayed in her rental property, reading from a guest book of comments.

“This is the people who this ordinance will be turning away,” she said.

Gedney said that she believes prohibiting short-term rentals in Shepherdstown’s historic district would negatively impact local business and tourism.

Don Burgess also rents out a property on High Street.

Burgess said that he believes decisions being made with regard to rental properties are based on “rumors and anecdotal information.”

“I suggest that when you are looking at this amendment, you look at what you are really targeting,” he said.

Council member Josh Stella clarified that the planning commission has not taken an opinion with regard to the existence of short-term rental properties in residential districts 1 and 2.

Stella explained that the town ordinance already prohibits such properties.

Instead, Stella said that the planning commission and town council are considering changes to the language in Title 9 in order to make the definition of both “short-term rental property” and “boarding house” more clear.

“This is an attempt to clarify existing ordinance,” he said

With regard to the existing ordinance’s prohibition of such properties, Stella said the planning commission remains mixed and has taken no official stance.

“I see both sides of the issue,” he said.

Stella said he’s interested to hear more from residents and thinks the issue will likely come up for consideration by the planning commission in the future.

The council voted 4-2 to approve the ordinance definition changes.

The next town council meeting will be Dec. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in town hall.