Bridgewater votes to regulate short-term rentals

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — The number of short-term rentals is growing in the Shenandoah Valley, including in the town of Bridgewater.

At Tuesday night's town council meeting, Bridgewater voted to regulate those rentals.

Tuesday night's meetings included a public hearing in which a couple of Bridgewater residents spoke in support of the ordinances.

Council is looking ahead before a large number of short term rentals, such as Air BnB, come to the area.

"I think council is really being shrewd by looking at a problem before it happens," said Alex Wilmer, assistant town manager. "We're not having any problems with the ones we've had, but let's put some guidelines in place so that as they continue to pop up across town, that we can handle that."

The first ordinance requires any rental to register with the town and establishes a four-strikes rule. Registration would be revoked for a property with four or more violations of local or state laws.

The second ordinance establishes a "transient occupancy tax" for any short-term rental, bed-and-breakfast or hotel, and the third ordinance updated the zoning code to reflect that the town allows short-term rentals.

Wilmer says the short-term rentals can help bring people to Bridgewater.

"We don't have a hotel yet in Bridgewater, so short term rentals give people an opportunity to come and visit Bridgewater, to stay in a home, to visit Generations Park or any of the other things we have going on here in town," Wilmer said. "That brings people into the community to businesses, to restaurants, so we think it's definitely a plus to have them here."

Council voted unanimously to approve all three ordinances and hopes rentals will continue to grow.