WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington’s Planning Commission has once again postponed making any decision on the divisive short-term rentals debate that has been waged for more than two years. The Planning Commission held a work session on Wednesday to continue its discussion on the topic, and hear arguments from the public.
Unlike most work sessions, the commission opted to waive the rules and regulations to allow for public comment – something that is typically reserved for a public hearing. In doing so, it allowed the commission an opportunity to hear from residents without having to make any official decision.
Terry Bragg, executive director of the Battleship North Carolina spoke at the meeting andvoiced his concerns with allowing short-term rentals in the historic district.
“We now have a proper quantity of quality hotels and bed and breakfasts which is good. However we still have short term rentals operated by untrained individuals in an unregulated environment putting our visitors, reputation and ultimately our travel industry at risk,” Bragg said.
Bragg said he was OK with short-term rentals in commercial and business districts, but he was opposed to them in the residential districts, such as where he lives.
“I do not have the same confidence in residential districts where I live, which do not offer the same level of security where current inspections are few, lighting is poor, there are few directional or information signs and predators are known to frequent,” Bragg said.
Bragg said that while “bad hotels” on Market Street are being dealt with by the city and county, but short-term rentals are illegal, in his opinion. He also claimed that the city’s Planning Board and the governmental process is putting the city’s residents in jeopardy.
“I feel the inaction of city government and the delays coming from the Planning Board process are jeopardizing my mission to keep visitors safe,” he said.
Other members of the historic district also spoke out about allowing short-term rentals in their neighborhood, while some owners of rentals spoke in favor of allowing them in Wilmington.
Michael Lardieri, a Wilmington resident shared his views on short-term rentals which he says have been around in Europe for years and they help visitors get a feel for a city. He also highlighted the importance of the additional tax base that can be gained if these rentals are allowed.
After hearing from the residents and speaking among themselves the Planning Commission members agreed to move the item to a public hearing – the next step in proceeding with the creation of an ordinance for the commissioners to vote on proposed changes.
“A public hearing on the proposed code changes will be scheduled for the Dec. 6, 2017, Planning Commission meeting. A staff report, including a draft of proposed changes, will be posted the week before the Dec. 6 meeting,” according to the city’s website.
Michael Praats can be reached at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org