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Lynchburg city council set to hear feedback on short-term rental ordinance as opposition continues

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) It’s graduation weekend in Lynchburg. Schools like Liberty University are bringing thousands of families to the city.

Many are choosing to stay in short-term rentals like the Airbnb hosted by Jason Phelps.

"Graduation weekend is a very popular time for people all around the area to use Airbnb to generate additional income," Phelps explained.

Phelps offers his Airbnb in Boonsboro year round but he says most of Lynchburg’s short-term rental hosts, around 70%, only open their properties once or twice a year.

If Lynchburg City Council passes a proposed ordinance, requiring short-term rental hosts to pay a $150 registration fee, Phelps thinks the people who only open their homes sporadically will try to skirt the law.

"People will try to hope they don’t get caught by doing it just once a year," Phelps said.

It’s one of many concerns being raised about the proposed ordinance. Groups like the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance are opposed to an aspect of the law that would prevent spaces from being rented out to more than four unrelated people at a time.

"If you have a five bedroom home that could comfortably house, for a short term, 10 to 12 people, the current regulation if enacted by city council would limit that to four unrelated individuals," said Chris Faraldi, director of government relations for the business alliance.

Faraldi told WDBJ7 he plans to encourage city council to send the proposed ordinance back to the planning commission. He thinks the ordinance needs to be refined, with more input from the people it would impact.

"Let’s get everyone to the table, so that we can talk about what would really be best for the city of Lynchburg," Faraldi said.

Tom Rogers, chairman of the Lynchburg Planning Commission, told WDBJ7 late Thursday that he and other members of the planning commission spent an extensive amount of time crafting the proposed ordinance before voting in late February to recommend that city council approve the current language. He said the planning commission members met one-on-one with short-term rental operators, and the current proposal was written to protect both rental operators and private homeowners living in the city’s residential districts.

Lynchburg City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance at its meeting next Tuesday.

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