The Washington Town Council Monday night voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing at its May 14 meeting, a joint session with the planning commission, on a new ordinance to regulate “P to P” — point to point, or as most know it, Airbnb — rentals in town.
For a half hour before voting, the council and small crowd of citizens discussed the 12-point draft ordinance, which comes after what Mayor John Sullivan characterized as “much work” by the planning commission and town attorney John Bennett.
Among the issues under discussion was whether a proposed mandate that short-term rentals “must be offered by the owner, who is on premises to manage at all times when guests are present.”
“I too don’t believe it should be 100 percent of time, every minute, that somebody is there,” Sullivan said. “My consensus of the discussion is no one meant quite precisely that.”
After another 45-minute discussion, the council approved contributing up to $5,000 (subject to a final vote sometime in the future) from the town’s general fund to Innstock, the Inn at Little Washington’s planned 40th anniversary celebration in September, including music and fireworks on the Inn’s property on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Council members agreed that the event was a marketing opportunity the town shouldn’t pass up.
Town resident Nancy Buntin was concerned.
“We’re trying to build up our contingency fund, we increased our water and sewer fees to try to build up our funds so that we can do things like the [water] well, that water pipes, etc.,” she said. Council member Brad Schneider assured Bunting that the $5,000 comes out of the general fund; the water and sewer expenses are from a different self-contained fund.
Others saw it as an opportunity for local businesses.
“To make more of one day, to make it into a weekend . . . the marketing value there is a lot larger, if you want return guests,” said Drew Harris, proprietor of the Gay Street Inn.
The council also voted to contribute $2,000 to Food Pantry Day, an annual spring fundraising event. It also authorized a public hearing on the FY 2018-19 budget, also at the council’s next meeting May 14.
At the start of the meeting, Sullivan issued a reminder that, since the town agreed to move its elections from May to November’s general elections, candidates for town council posts, including mayor and treasurer, must file with the county elections office by June 12.
The council also approved extending its annual contract with ESS for a year for operations of the town’s water and wastewater plants.