After almost a year of study, the absence of new regulations for in-home lodging has left Charlottesville property owners and concerned neighbors in the lurch and a potential source of new revenue for city coffers untapped.
“Transient lodging facilities such as accommodations offered through websites like Airbnb are popping up all over the country,” said city planner Matt Alfele. “This model of temporary lodging is creating more opportunities for travelers and new revenue opportunities for individuals, but can be disruptive to traditional neighborhoods.”
Alfele said there are as many 318 housing units in the city currently being used as transient lodging facilities.
The zoning code currently allows for “homestay” homes to be run as bed and breakfasts, but that requires the property owner to live on the premises when guests are there.
The City Council and Planning Commission will hold a joint work session this week to further discuss how Charlottesville’s zoning code might be amended to regulate the growing practice of homeowners renting out their space to tourists and other visitors.
The commission held a public hearing on the issue last week, but many members expressed concern that proposed changes were not ready to be adopted.
Alfele had presented the commission with two different approaches. One would expand the homestay category, and the other would define a new “transient lodging facility” that would allow the practice to become legal throughout the city without homeowners needing to be on site.
In both cases, property owners would need to get a provisional-use permit from the city. They also would need a business license and pay taxes to the city.
The city has been studying the issue since July, but commissioners said they want to get the ordinance right.
“I don’t feel that proposal A or proposal B is really going to get us to where we need to be,” said Commissioner Taneia Dowell, who herself is the proprietor of a bed and breakfast.
Dowell asked councilors if they would extend the time allowed for further study. Councilors are present at commission public hearings, and agreed to hold the work session.
“I don’t think we are in a big rush,” said Mayor Satyendra Huja.
However, another elected official implored the city to resolve the issue soon because taxes cannot be collected on a business service that is currently unregulated.
“We are clearly missing out on a lot of revenue,” said Todd Divers, the city’s commissioner of revenue. “You guys need to hurry up.”
The work session will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday in the basement conference room at City Hall.