Parking is a point of contention in many areas, even before short-term rental guests arrive.
Short Term Rentals In Jefferson County
If you’ve ever rented a beach house or a mountain cabin for a week, you’ve likely stayed at a “short-term rental” property. These resort-area rentals have been available for decades, and prior to the internet, were typically booked through a local property management company. While local-agent rentals are still common in beach and mountain locales, the online booking companies Airbnb and Vrbo have established themselves as portals for guests to access a wide variety of short-term rentals in big cities, small towns, the suburbs, and popular recreation areas across the country.
Airbnb’s website lists about 200 options within Jefferson County, with approximately 65 of these as single rooms — a category which includes bedrooms in private homes as well as rooms at bed & breakfast inns. Vrbo’s website lists approximately 150 options for the county, with a significant amount of overlap with the Airbnb listings. With slightly more than 20,000 residences within the entire county (a number that is growing rapidly), the number of short-term rentals works out to less than one percent of all private residences in Jefferson County.
There are roughly 1,200 hotel rooms available in Jefferson County, ranging from the luxury suites of the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown to the apartment-style units at Hilton’s Home2 Suites in Charles Town. The Hollywood Casino is the largest hotel, with almost 300 rooms. On the other end of the scale, there are a dozen or so bed & breakfast inns in Bolivar and Harpers Ferry offering personalized hospitality by their local owners. The total number of short-term rentals available on Airbnb/Vrbo are the equivalent of one average size hotel in the area. As an alternative comparison, the county lost around 200 rooms with the closures of the Clarion Hotel and the Quality Inn properties in Shepherdstown.
The Jefferson County zoning ordinance currently permits short-term rentals of 7 or more days in all residential zones. The county Planning Commission recently proposed a text amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow rentals of fewer than 7 days, but with additional permitting requirements, both from the Zoning Office and the Health Department (these rules would apply only to properties outside of the various municipalities within the county). The Planning Commission reviewed the draft amendment on October 21. It found the proposed amendment to be consistent with the county’ comprehensive plan and voted to recommend it to the County Commission.
The County Commission will have the proposed amendment on its November 4 meeting agenda for discussion. If the Commission votes to proceed with the amendment, the next step would be a public hearing. Depending on the Commission’s schedule, this public hearing could be set to coincide with the November 18 or December 2 regular meeting of the County Commission.By Staff Contributor