Airbnb ad hoc committee members voice concerns

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

(Courtesy of Airbnb.com)

Several newly city-appointed members of an ad hoc committee on the online-home sharing economy are bringing a variety of concerns to the panel.

The ad hoc committee, appointed by City Council Tuesday, will study the online home-sharing industry and report back to Council about possible legislative initiatives. The committee appointments come amid a push by Council to regulate short-term online rentals, including a new ordinance that requires residents in the City who rent their homes on Airbnb and other online platforms to register with the City and pay a transient occupancy tax.

“I want to remain as open minded as possible about this,” Jack Drescher, the committee’s chair, said in a phone interview. Drescher is the current president of the North Virginia Beach Civic League.

Things Drescher intends to keep in mind at committee meetings are public safety, health, taxes and zoning ramifications, he said. These are all issues the panel will have to carefully vet, he said. He believes it’s unfair that online home renters aren’t subject to city regulations and ordinances that come into play for realtors, he added.

“I think it’s not fair that a brick-and-mortar real-estate broker has a series of statutes, ordinances and regulations to which it must comply,” Drescher said. “And Airbnb, which does the exact same thing, does not – that’s problematic because everybody needs to be fed from the same spoon. It needs to be a level playing field.”

Committee members include local civic leaders and local representatives of the hotel and real-estate industries. A complete list of current members can be found here.

Another committee member, Sandi Granger, is a member of the Brigadoon Civic League in Virginia Beach. She also rents a room in her house out on Airbnb.

She registered this week with the City to pay transient occupancy taxes, when she learned it was a requirement.

“I’m a proponent of Airbnb,” Granger said in a phone interview. “I think it’s a creative alternative to traditional hotels.”

Granger would like to represent Airbnb renters in Virginia Beach who are not causing problems with large party rentals, she said. Granger has rented the room in her home on Airbnb for about a year and a half. The maximum amount of guests she allows for the rental is two, she said.

“I think I’m going to be a voice for the average type of Airbnb host,” she said. “I think the City is worried about party houses, and people renting entire houses for events at the beach – like weddings –  and that’s an entirely different situation than we have,” she said, referring to her own home.

Another committee member, Bruce Johnson, said the committee will look at how to prevent rentals from leading to large, uncontrolled parties. Johnson is the co-chairman of the architectural preservation and zoning committee for the Chesapeake Beach Civic League. He’s spoken to neighbors who’ve become upset about large parties in Airbnb homes with attendees reaching 100, he said.

He also mentioned 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 and13 News Now.

“We just have to look at a lot of different things,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “I’m not against Airbnb, I think they’re good. We just have to take a step back and see how and what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to operate.”

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Airbnb ad hoc committee members voice concerns