WILMINGTON — After years of inaction, postponed votes, and countless hours of discussion, the City of Wilmington might finally have a solution to the question of allowing short-term rentals in municipal limits — and with a 4-3 split vote, property rights have narrowly defeated “not in my backyard” arguments.
On Tuesday, City Council once again took to the issue that has been ongoing since at least March of 2016, but this time a vote was taken and short-term rentals will now be permitted in residential, historic, and multi-use districts in town.
On the table during the meeting were two options: ban whole-house short-term rentals, or permit them in residential and historic districts with limitations.
The vote came after several hours of discussion and a public hearing session; ultimately, Councilman Neil Anderson made the motion to allow the rentals with some separation requirements and an overall cap on the number permitted. The vote was just barely in favor of approval with Mayor Bill Saffo, Neil Anderson, Clifford Barnett Sr., and Charlie Rivenbark all voting yes, and Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes, Paul Lawler, and Kevin O’Grady against.
A second vote will still be required since a motion to wave second hearing was not unanimously approved.
There will be restrictions on the number of rentals available as well as a distance requirement of 400-feet city-wide separation. These regulations, could theoretically be used to limit rentals to one per a four-block area, and could include already-existing bed-and-breakfast operations as a rental — thus created a de facto ban on STRs in many downtown areas.
According to a presentation on the topic from City Staff, “To accommodate the expected need, the cap is based on the current estimate of roughly 700 existing short-term lodging units within the city, which suggests that the current demand on the market. Seven hundred is roughly 2-percent of the current total number of residentially-zoned parcels in the city limits.”
This is not the first ordinance put in place by the city to restrict home rentals, in 2018 the council voted on regulations regarding so-called homestay rentals, or those rentals where a homeowner is on site and renting a room or two of their residence.
Owners who want to operate whole-home rentals will have to register them with the city and get a permit. There will be strict regulations guiding the operation of the rentals if violations occur the homeowner risks losing their permits to operate.