DAVIS, W.Va. – Last week, a special town council meeting was called at the Davis Volunteer Fire Department Hall to discuss the town’s Short-Term Rental Moratorium. The town placed a temporary moratorium on short-term rental businesses, like Airbnb and VRBO, in residential areas last year and voted unanimously to extend the moratorium until June 30, 2022, at the last town council meeting.
Business owners in Davis and Thomas started the Davis Rental Property Owners Alliance in response to the moratorium. The group reached out to Kin Sayre, a lawyer at Bowles Rice who said the moratorium could be unlawful. Mayor Al Tomson said a letter from Sayre was the catalyst of last week’s meeting.
“I think you have to take notice when you get a legal letter from a legal organization that says you can’t do the things you want to do,” said Tompson.
A crowd of around 40-50 people attended the meeting in which the council asked Sayre some questions about his understanding of West Virginia code. One of Sayre’s main points was that a town can’t regulate types of businesses differently unless they have a zoning plan, and that the moratorium could become a liability for the town if someone decides to sue.
“They’re attempting to single out a certain classification of business and to regulate, prohibit, and restrict in a way that we believe they don’t have the authority to do,” said Sayre.
Jessica Luscombe, one of the members of the Davis Rental Property Owners Alliance and owner of The Wandering Caravan, said the group is not against regulations, but she believes the town is focusing on the wrong things and that if the town drives short-term rentals away, local businesses are going to suffer.
“The 27 people that are doing short-term rentals here, that number is going to dwindle down to nothing, and we do not have enough hotels to carry the amount of people that come to this area,” said Luscombe, “and they’re going to start going to other places, and we’re all going to feel it, and that’s a concern for me.”
The Town of Davis had a lawyer present, Rob Chenoweth, who said the meeting went well and was very informative.
“Obviously, [Sayre] is a well-versed municipal attorney that had some good points and good ideas. I think the council had some good questions about the best way forward with this issue and nothing got out of hand,” said Chenoweth.
No decisions were made during the special meeting.
“What it looks like in the end is hard to say because every time we have a meeting, the council and I, we learn new information, so this is a learning process,” said Tomson during the meeting, “None of us have done this before. Many of you who are involved have never done this before. So we’re all learning as we go and working together.”