WILMINGTON — It has been nearly two years since the debate on short term rentals began in September of 2015. That’s when City Council directed staff to research and write the “Short-Term Rental’s Benchmarking and Key Issues Report.”
Now, after months of public input meetings, special work sessions, presentations and reports, there has yet to be any action taken by City Council or the city’s Planning Commission.
The issue has vocal support from residents on both sides of the argument: some want the city to regulate short-term rentals, others want the industry to remain a free enterprise. As municipal elections get closer, candidates’ stances on short term rentals could be deciding factors in a race that will see nine candidates vying for three available seats on the City Council.
The City of Wilmington’s Planning Commission held a work session on Aug. 23 (which was a continuation of a previous session) to try and decide what recommendations will be sent to the City Council, but the planning commission again decided that more time was needed and has another work session planned for mid-October.
The October work session will allow for public comments, although it will not be an official public hearing. This means that the Planning Commission will have to hold another meeting for an official public hearing before taking any action and sending recommendations to City Council.
“The planning commission hasn’t yet scheduled a public hearing to consider the issue. They will hold another work session in mid-October. Their intent is to waive their rules to have public comment at the work session, but it will not be a public hearing. They can’t make a recommendation to forward on to council until they hold a public hearing,” Senior Planner Christine Hughes said.
City Council member Paul Lawler said he is hopeful that the Planning Commission will be able to send a recommendation to City Council after the next work session.
“One of the STR (short-term rental) proponents told me ‘it’s time to pull the bandage off.’ I agree. Our neighborhoods need to know if they are going to have businesses next to their residences and our investors need to know if they can grow their business. I’m ready to vote,” Lawler said.
Michael Praats can be reached via email at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org