NEW MARKET – Town officials are inching closer to establishing rules that will allow the town to collect taxes from short-term rentals.

Some homeowners have been renting out their homes through sites such as Airbnb, attracting visitors to the town but cutting the town and established bed and breakfasts out of potential income.

Brandon Davis, executive director of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, presented a draft ordinance to the Planning Commission on Monday with suggestions on how the town might go about laying the groundwork for rules governing short-term rentals.

“Zoning alone is not going to cover it,” Davis said. “There are multiple parts of your code that will probably be impacted by this that will allow you to accomplish what you want to accomplish.”

Planning Commission members and town leaders aim to establish a system that is not only welcoming to visitors but that also protects the rights and property of residents as well as provide the town with a way to collect taxes on the revenues raised.

Davis focused the draft ordinance around three sections — the zoning ordinance, the transient occupancy tax and the issuance of a business license. While explaining the issue, he said he tried to keep the language simple and straight-forward.

“Less is more,” Davis said. “I tried to do everything as succinctly as possible. The more verbose you become the more room for interpretation you have.”

He suggested the town copy and paste its transient occupancy tax language to apply to short-term rentals the same way they apply to bed and breakfasts. The two businesses are not equivalent — the draft does not allow food to be prepared for guests at a short-term rental property — but the way they are taxed doesn’t need to differ, Davis said.

Another piece of the ordinance will include the homeowners renting out their homes, or rooms in their homes, to apply for a business license every year.

Some members expressed concerns about rentals that don’t have their owners present while renters are staying in town.

To head off those concerns, Davis included language that requires the property owner to designate a responsible person who lives within an hour of the property to respond to any issues that might arise with renters.

Charlie Fultz, a Planning Commission member, said he was happy with the stipulation Davis wrote into the draft, saying it covered almost all of his concerns with establishing short-term rentals in the town.

Despite requiring a responsible person within an hour of the property, some members wanted more protections for residents who live near short-term rentals that don’t have the owners present.

George Daugherty, Planning Commission chairman, suggested the ordinance include restrictions on short term rentals that are not owner-occupied. He suggested owner-occupied rentals be allowed anywhere in town — residential, business or commercial districts — while other rentals only are allowed in low-density zoned areas.

“I don’t feel like we should be having whole homes that are being short-term rentals with nobody present. I don’t feel like we should be having them where we don’t even allow bed and breakfasts,” he said.

Planning Commission members will have one more meeting and possibly a joint work session with Town Council members before bringing the draft to a public hearing.

Town Manager Todd Walters said he hoped the town would have an ordinance to adopt by Jan. 1.

Walters, Daugherty, Fultz, Tim Palmer, Sonny Mongold, Greg Bair and Bob King were present at Monday’s meeting. Tom Linski was absent.

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