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Town Council dismisses motion to allow transient lodging in the Historic District

By Staff | Jan 18, 2019

From left to right, town council members Cheryl Roberts, Deb Tucker, Mayor Auxer, Mark Everheart and David Rosen discuss the pros and cons of transient lodging in Shepherdstown’s historic district. Thomas Girod

SHEPHERDSTOWN The Shepherdstown Town Council met for its regular monthly meeting on Jan. 8 in Town Hall, to discuss allowing transient lodging within the historic district of Shepherdstown.

Mayor Jim Auxer and the rest of the council members sat down to discuss the issue with community business owners, residents and the Transient Lodging committee. The Transient Lodging committee, established at the end of 2017, presented their plan to regulate homes for transient lodging, if approved. The motion to approve transient housing in the historic district was dismissed by the council.

Short-term transient lodging is housing needed by travelers or visitors for 30 days or less. Services like Airbnb bridge the gap between property owners and a specific market, allowing these owners to transform their properties to convenient rooms with hotel or motel-like services. Transient lodging is currently permitted in the residential-commercial zone of the town, located just outside the historic district.

Per the task force, short-term transient lodging for the historic district would be permitted in primary residences, requiring a business license, mandatory inspections and the ability to give guest passes for parking or offer off-street parking. The Transient Lodging Task Forced argued that enabling the historic district for services regarding transient lodging will “increase tourism, bring a diversity of people into the town [and] provide a means of financial support for preservation of homeowner’s historic homes,” according to a written recommendation from the task force.

Some business owners at the meeting did not feel as if there are a significant amount of tourists in Shepherdstown, because there are no lodging options conveniently available on historic streets.

Kendra Goldsborough, owner of Four Seasons bookstore, was in favor of the approval, saying, “if we want to attract younger people, Airbnb’s are a wonderful choice . . . [the decision to approve] would add to the vitality of culture to downtown life.”

In a letter to the mayor and the council, Karene Motivans, president of the Historic Landmarks Commission in Shepherdstown, wrote, “The temptation to ‘make money using my house’ is understandable – however, in this town we are tied together by our district and zoning. We have a balance to consider and need to study the potential effects to the town we all appreciate.”

Members of the council and Auxer also expressed some concerns and reasons why transient lodging for the historic district has not yet been approved, including loss of long-term rentals in the district, noise concerns and an exacerbation of the parking situation in town.

“Our priority is protecting the integrity of our town’s historic district,” Auxer said.