The second of two Strasburg meetings on an ordinance for short-term rentals was held Wednesday night with information focusing a bit more on data about the property type.
Lee Pambid, the town’s planning and zoning administrator, and Amanda Kerns, regional planner with the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, gave the same presentation inside the town’s council chambers as last week’s meeting.
While last week’s meeting, which was intended for property owners of short-term rental units, was attended by several people, Wednesday’s meeting, was attended by three people via Zoom. Wednesday’s meeting was intended for the general public and people who might be interested in using short-term rental properties.
The term short-term rental is defined in the state as a property that will be occupied 30 days or less. Short-term rentals can be listed with such websites as Airbnb or VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) and differ from traditional short-term lodging, such as hotels.
The process to have a short-term rental in town would be by-right for most zoning districts, meaning a zoning permit, business license and remittance of a transient occupancy tax, Kerns explained Wednesday night. Only properties in the zoning districts of multi-family residential, because of the higher building code requirements there, and highway commercial would require a special use permit. They wouldn’t be allowed in the business park and limited industrial districts.
During the presentation, Kerns shared that, according to a Forbes article in the year 2020, short-term rentals yield 30% more profits for homeowners and investors than a long-term lease, with an estimated global market valuation of $169 billion in 2018. Airbnb and Homeaway accounted for 30% of the 2018 industry market share, Kerns said.
When Kerns reviewed the properties in town listed on Airbnb last week, they were charging between $150 to $240 per night, she said. With the extra space that comes with short-term rental properties, users get more “bang for their buck” compared to hotels, she added.
The short-term rental properties would provide a new source of revenue for the town through a transient occupancy tax, which is currently not being collected on the five properties using Airbnb in town, Kerns said. The town is not looking to penalize those properties but instead wants to create a level playing field for them through the new ordinance, Pambid explained.
Kerns, who is working with the town in a consulting role, shared what other towns have passed, including New Market. There, the town designated certain districts for owner-occupied vs. non-owner-occupied properties, which dictate if an owner of a short-term rental unit must reside there.
In Harrisonburg, the town has two levels of regulation on short-term rental property — the first level is an easily attainable process for rooms within a home, Kerns explained. The second level, for more traditional short-term properties, requires a special use permit. The special permit is required, in part, because of the higher standard in building code requirements for apartment-style buildings.
One attendee over Zoom suggested seeking guidance from the towns of Woodstock and Luray for what neighbors and owners think of short-term rentals.
Kerns said she would do more research to see the potential net profit the town would get from short-term rental users versus people staying in properties on long-term leases, after councilman Dane Hooser, one of the attendees, made an inquiry. Hooser also expressed concern about gentrification of the town with short-term rental properties raising property values and pushing people out.
One concern about short-term rentals is the impact on the affordable housing market, Pambid has explained. Kerns added Wednesday the frequent changeover of users of short-term rental properties could lead to new customers for the downtown shops.
“For economic development purposes, I think it’s good to go ahead and get something on the books,” Kerns said. “And then you can kind of see how it’s working out...you can go back and be more restrictive if you see that it’s necessary.”