City Council rushes to inform General Assembly work group on Airbnb

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Rentals listed on Airbnb in Virginia Beach from July 29 to July 31 (Courtesy of Airbnb.com)

Rentals listed on Airbnb in Virginia Beach from July 29 to July 31 (Courtesy of Airbnb.com)

The City of Virginia Beach is rushing to come up with a formal opinion about how to regulate Airbnb rentals in time to inform a General Assembly work group in October.

During a briefing Tuesday, City Manager Dave Hansen suggested several community, professional and business groups whose members could be asked to participate in an ad hoc committee that would study existing zoning laws and how short-term online home rentals are functioning in the City. The panel would come up with recommendations for an ordinance and a legislative agenda related to the rentals.

“What really bothers me is that a young man was killed at a party at a short-term rental this spring,” Councilmember Barbara Henley said during the briefing. Henley was referring to Darren Campbell, a 20-year-old student from Old Dominion University who was fatally shot during a party at a Virginia Beach house that was rented through Airbnb, according to reports from WAVY TV and 13 News Now.

There is no specific ordinance currently regulating short-term home rentals in Virginia Beach. City Council is set to vote next week on a proposed ordinance that would require Virginia Beach residents who rent their homes online to register with the City and pay a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT).

Because the City now knows about these rentals, it must act to enforce the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and safety regulations, according to Henley.

“If we don’t do that, we’re being negligent,” Henley said. Henley, an eight-term Councilmember, is a former teacher who holds a master’s degree in urban studies, according to her biography on the City’s website.

Hansen said he believes the General Assembly work group currently studying the issue will come up with a legislative proposal in October. He proposed to the Council that a group be appointed next week, with the intention of coming up with an ordinance and a legislative agenda by the end of September.

Hansen suggested representatives from the following organizations for the ad hoc committee:

He also suggested there be a designated chairman and a representative from an online rental platform.

A spokesperson from Airbnb did not provide a comment before deadline.

  • Hansen’s list of prospective committee members roughly mirrors the composition of a work group assembled by the Virginia Housing Commission to study short-term rentals. That group includes representatives from Airbnb, Hilton Worldwide, the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association and others.

Sessoms already has one participant in mind. He reached out to Virginia Beach resident Jack Drescher, the president of the North Virginia Beach Civic League, about serving on the ad hoc committee and he will likely recommend Drescher to chair the panel, the Mayor said during the briefing. 

One member of the Council stressed another issue: the need to give notice to potentially affected homeowners. It’s important that the City inform residents about any tax requirements once an ordinance is adopted, so residents are aware of any liability they would incur, said councilmember Bob Dyer.

Still, Hansen cited the need to move quickly. A home-rental ordinance and a legislative agenda would both have to be approved by City Council before they are shared with the legislative work group, Hansen said.

“We really need to have our position finalized by the end of September,” Hansen said.

 

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City Council rushes to inform General Assembly work group on Airbnb