Council members have directed city staff to hold public meetings on the topic. The effort, which will likely end in a recommendation sent to council, is sure to stir up opposing viewpoints among neighborhood groups, businesses and property owners.
Owners typically list rentals on travel websites such as VRBO.com, or Vacation Rentals by Owner, which lists more than 100 properties available in the Wilmington area. Another similar website is Airbnb.com, which also allows property owners to rent accommodations. Visitors may book a rental through those websites.
The city permits short-term rentals of residences in the central business district with no minimum night stay. But in residential districts throughout the city, homes can be rented for a minimum of one week. (Bed & breakfasts are regulated separately.)
At Monday's council meeting, senior city planner Christine Hughes discussed a benchmarking report that examined the rules in 16 other cities.
"There's no real clear best practice on this," she said, adding the topic is usually controversial.
In a November letter to city leaders, Residents of Old Wilmington (ROW) President Sylvia Kochler argues short-term rentals are detrimental to residential neighborhoods. Kochler said the city is at risk of losing the “historic residential character” of its neighborhoods and asked the city to prohibit rentals in residential districts. ROW represents about 300 households downtown.
Meanwhile, rental supporters argue they are popular with visitors who spend money at area restaurants and businesses. One group, Wilmington Short-Term Rental Advocates, has formed to defend the rentals. The group maintains the rentals bring a range of benefits to homeowners, visitors and area businesses.
Councilman Kevin O'Grady said Monday short-term rentals should be stopped in residential districts.
"It is the historic district residential, not the historic district rental," said O'Grady, a downtown resident and former president of Residents of Old Wilmington.
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