Council approves changes to short term rental operations

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Following a public hearing Tuesday night, Harrisonburg City Council approved two amendments related to short term rentals.

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The first amendment changed language in the zoning ordinance penalties section.

Right now, the section states that operating a short term rental in violation of section 10-3-205, the general regulations section, shall be punishable by civil penalties.

The amendment replaced "Section 10-3-205" with "zoning ordinance."

Following Tuesday's vote, any short term rental violating the zoning ordinance, which includes operating without a special use permit and parking violations, will be subject to civil penalty.

Council also voted to eliminate the $50 annual fee to operate in the City.

According to city documents, one of the initial reasons for establishing the annual registration process was to track and maintain the number of legally operating short term rentals in the city. However, staff determined that information could be gathered through existing processes and systems, and that the annual registration fee was not necessary.

Property owners are still required to pay $425 to apply for a special use permit.

"Over the past couple of months, we've definitely seen an influx of applications come in," said Mike Parks, a spokesman for Harrisonburg. "That is likely because the grace period is coming to an end. Once we get to that grace period, we'll take a look and see do we continue to go on this track of will things slow down."

The grace period ends August 1.