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Transient lodging in town limits

By Staff | Nov 30, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — As the Corporation of Shepherdstown works to remain relevant to modern trends in traveling, the corporation is currently deliberating on whether or not to allow town residents to be Airbnb hosts.

Airbnb is a website, on which travelers can book rooms to stay in at another person’s residence. The program, while seemingly positive, has caused problems for towns across the country, by increasing living costs and emptying the towns of permanent residents. Many residents throughout the U.S. choose to rent out their homes in tourist destination areas, moving their permanent residences outside of the towns.

So far, the Corporation of Shepherdstown has approved a couple of residents with residential-zoned homes to participate in Airbnb on a case-by-case basis, but the corporation is hoping to make it possible for more Shepherdstown residents to benefit from the extra cash the program could bring them. But, the corporation wants to develop legislation that will help them avoid the mistakes other towns in the U.S. have made with Airbnb.

“How do we not make the mistakes that other towns have made?” said Town Recorder Lori Robertson, as she spoke during the final public comment meeting for the Transient Lodging Task Force. “We’re trying to do this, so it won’t go badly.”

The meeting, held on Nov. 20, was one of several the task force has held at Town Hall, allowing local residents to give their input on how they feel about Airbnbs. According to a statement by the task force, the results from these meetings are now in the evaluation stage, and will be reviewed before being used to “make recommendations to the Town Council on a position with respect to policies on short-term transient lodging within the corporate limits of Shepherdstown. Currently, transient lodging, such as Airbnbs, are allowed in the town’s commercial district. These types of rentals are not allowed in the residential-zoned area within Shepherdstown’s corporate limits.”

After hearing comments from a dozen residents who attended the meeting — some of whom want to participate in the Airbnb program themselves, to make ends meet — Transient Lodging Task Force Chair Deb Tucker made a final comment on how the task force will proceed with developing the details of the recommendation.

“What I’m hearing, is this group should meet together again soon, to deliberate and bring before the Town Council. We need to write an executive report for the Town Council,” Tucker said, agreeing with the majority of the attendees, that all Airbnbs in town will need to be owner-occupied, will not get additional parking spaces allotted to them and will need to be inspected before being allowed to join the other Airbnbs representing Shepherdstown.