Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Mayor Pro-Tem Haynes responds to conflict of interest questions over short-term rentals

The questions came up at the beginning of a long meeting on the contentious issue of short-term rentals.

Wilmington Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes is addressing accusations that her short-term rental property in Wrightsville Beach is a conflict of interest. (Port City Daily photo | Courtesy City of Wilmington)
Wilmington Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes is addressing accusations that her short-term rental property in Wrightsville Beach is a conflict of interest. (Port City Daily photo | Courtesy City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON—During last week’s city council meeting Wilmington Mayor Pro-Tem Margaret Haynes was accused of having a conflict of interest for owning a short-term rental in Wrightsville Beach. Now, Haynes is defending her rental property.

On Tuesday, June 19, city council met to vote on proposed regulations on short-term rentals after three years of contentious debate. Although the issue of whole-house rentals in residential areas was left out of the regulations – postponed for an October vote – council did approve allowing limited renting of individual rooms.

Prior to the public hearing, during a comment session, Wilmington short-term rental owner David Billitto addressed three council members who would ultimately vote against allowing homestay rentals in residential areas: Paul Lawler, Kevin O’Grady and Margaret Haynes.

Short-term rental owner David Billitto addressed city council last week. Billitto addressed potential conflicts of interest. (Port City Daily photo | Courtesy City of Wilmington)
Short-term rental owner David Billitto addressed city council last week. Billitto addressed potential conflicts of interest. (Port City Daily photo | Courtesy City of Wilmington)

Billitto addressed Haynes’ ownership of a short-term rental in Wrightsville Beach as a conflict of interest.

According to Billitto, “Mayor Pro Tem Haynes very clearly stated that she had not owned a short-term rental and repeatedly shook her head ‘no’ while I was speaking about her assumed short-term rental.”

Haynes denied this, clarifying that she objected only to Billitto’s suggestion that she had a beach property she “no longer needed to rent.”

“I shook my head ‘no’ when he said that I didn’t have to ‘rent’ my WB property,” Haynes said. ”For many years I have had, and continue to have, a beach property in the municipality of Wrightsville Beach which is, by nature, a vacation rental beach community. My legal beach rental has always been professionally managed by a Wrightsville Beach rental company.”

Billitto, who ran short on time during the comment section, said later that “Ms. Haynes is in a unique opportunity to benefit from the short-term rental ban as travelers will seek ancillary areas of the county to rent. The question then becomes whether this is a financial conflict of interest.”

Haynes denied ever having owned a short-term rental within Wilmington city limits. She said her beach rental should not be considered a conflict of interest.
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“It should be no one’s concern that I own any property outside of the city limits of Wilmington. The continuing implication that I own a short-term rental in Wilmington simply lacks veracity,” Haynes said.

Asked if it was at odds to regulate or ban short-term rentals in downtown Wilmington and allow them, or at least benefit from them, in Wrightsville, Haynes said no.

“There is nothing at odds when there are two separate localities with different governing rules,” Haynes said.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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