Council continues discussion of short-term rentals, Mimslyn wants to open B&B and other Luray news

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~ PVN staff report

LURAY — After a lengthy discussion at a work session on Tuesday evening, the Luray Council voiced many concerns, but took no formal action regarding the rapid rise of short-term rental requests within town limits.

Currently, the Town of Luray has a total of 41 short-term rentals within its corporate limits, including seven hotels, five bed and breakfasts, and 29 lodging homes, according to data provided by staff at council’s request. While current figures are not alarming, several members of council have acknowledged concern over a rising number of requests for lodging homes and other short-term rental uses and how that may affect the tourist Town in the years to come.

The biggest concern involves the loss of affordable rental property for the working class in town, as lodging homes and short-term rentals shrink the available properties in that market. Another aspect is the loss of traditional, long-standing neighborhoods, as well as making sure those designated as short-term rentals are following the rules. The data search conducted by the Town found a few properties listed on popular sites like that were not permitted to operate as such, had not acquired a business license and were not paying transient occupancy tax.

However, under its current volume, several members of council also acknowledged the benefits of the new trend.

“What is the magic number that we cut if off?” asked Councilman Ron Vickers. “I think it’s good that out-of-town investment is cleaning up and remodeling these properties…some that have been vacant for a while…and we get more taxes out of it.”

“I think this development and investment is good, and I think it creates even more investment in our surroundings,” council member Stephanie Lillard said. “We need to be doing that and not creating more regulations and fees.”

Councilman Alex White pushed for consideration of an ordinance that sets standards for such properties considering a long list of stipulations that he planned to send to fellow council members in a draft ordinance. He cited regulations from other jurisdictions that governed occupancy limits, parking requirements, sewer capacity, owner responsibilities and other criteria, which could also be addressed through the special use permit process.

Councilmen Joey Sours and Jason Pettit, while acknowledging the advantages of the new wave of investment in the Town, also expressed concern over preserving “traditional neighborhoods” or “neighborhood identity” and protecting the housing market for affordable rental housing for the working class. Pettit suggested that short-term rentals, as a business, should be limited to Business Districts. All short-term rentals are required to get a business license and pay appropriate meals and transient occupancy tax.

Town Manager Steve Burke reminded the council that while they may not be able to set a specific number or percentage of short-term rentals that would be palatable, they do hold the authority to turn down permits for short-term rentals when they reach a tipping point.

There was discussion of creating a registry of short-term rentals — and charging an additional fee for the registry — to better track compliance of those in this housing category. However, the idea of a fee did not receive much support, and the registry could potentially be tracked through business license applications.

In the end, the council came to a consensus to take no action at this time, but to revisit the issue in the future.

“It was a hot topic at the [Virginia Municipal League] conference,” Mayor Jerry Dofflemyer said. “Maybe we can get in front of it and manage it somehow.”

“The market is already starting to soften,” said Lillard, who works in economic development in Shenandoah County. “It’s getting over-saturated, and we are starting to see it slow down…We are not unique to this…it’s happening in communities all around us.”

In other business at its Jan. 24 work session, the Luray Council also discussed the following issues:

• Special event permit application submitted by the West Luray Rec Center and Man Talk 101 Inc. for the Fall Foliage 5K run and walk in memory of Bronson Porter from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21 along the Hawksbill Greenway, including use of the Mechanic Street parking lot. Porter passed away a few years ago at age 33. The applicant has conducted similar events in Town in the past, and staff had no issues with the permit.

• Special Use Permit submitted by 124 Court St LLC to operate a bed and breakfast home at 233 Mimslyn Lane in a medium density residential (R-2) district. On-site management shall be provided though the Mimslyn Inn. A bed and breakfast home is defined as a single-family dwelling where lodging and breakfast are provided for compensation to registered transient guests only. The maximum number of guests shall be two per bedroom with on-site parking for all guests. The Luray Planning Commission held a public hearing at its Jan. 11 meeting and unanimously recommended approval. The Luray Council will hold a public hearing and consider the permit at its Feb. 13 meeting.

• Code Amendment to establish Chapter 518 Commercial Vehicle in Residential Zones parking restrictions, which was referred to the Luray Planning Commission to address noise complaints involving overnight operation of a tractor trailer. Working with the Town Attorney, staff developed a Code Amendment to Section D of Chapter 58-5 – Loud, Disturbing, and Unreasonable Noise to specifically include noise related to vehicles. The Town Attorney has also taken the opportunity to update the Chapter to be consistent with current enabling legislation and enforcement requirements. The issue does not require a public hearing and will appear on the Council’s Feb. 13 agenda.

• Authorized the mayor to sign a letter of support from the Town for the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission’s application for an EPA grant from the Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling (SWIFR) grant program. The grant funds would support a regional search by NSVRC for a single-stream, curbside recycling services for the Shenandoah Valley. The regional commission would solicit bids for service that localities could then chose to accept. The grant application also seeks funds for the purchase of collection bins for each community. NSVRC has identified several localities in the Valley that have ceased curbside recycling due to cost, availability of haulers, and availability of local recycling facilities. The Town’s letter of support is non-binding.

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1 Comment

  1. As a former B & B owner, I have one question in regards to the special use permit for a B&B from the Mimslyn.

    Will they be hiring a full time live in innkeeper to care for their guests and prepare breakfast for them each morning?

    If not, they should not be granted B&B status. The property should just be a lodging house / vacation rental like their other properties.

    You do a disservice to the Luray innkeepers who all have followed the required regulations by living in their property and follow all other regulations.

    I see no reason the Mimslyn needs this property to be a bed and breakfast if they cannot meet the set requirements.

    Air BnB is a misnomer and has given innkeepers problems over the years. They do not provide the personalized quality services that a true bed and breakfast does. We must continue this differentiation

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