Submitted By; Alan Tomson
What makes living in Davis such a wonderful experience? Is it the mountains, Blackwater Falls, or our outstanding scenery and outdoor opportunities? We would like to offer that it is our people. We have a strong sense of community, and that is because of you and your neighbors. That is important to us and to a large number of you. In our community, you know your neighbors, friends live across the street, and this is where your family is from. We are so fortunate to have this awesome community and believe it is worth protecting.
We are facing a challenge. Short-Term Rentals are a concern to communities throughout the United States, so much so that some tourist towns and cities have an outright ban on them. The Davis Town Council wants to address this issue in a manner that finds a balance between those who own Short-Term Rentals and the residents of Davis who want to maintain their community as it is. Davis has enjoyed recent growth since it has been discovered by countless folks during COVID as a respite from large cities. Many are looking for a second home and others for an investment opportunity. This is causing community concern around what individuals do with that home.
Short-Term Rentals impact communities in many ways and the nature of that change is what we as the Council intend to address with the proposed ordinance. Residents are watching neighboring houses, with family members, friends, or just people you could count on, become a rental house…a business. Every weekend a different person or group is renting, having parties while you are trying to sleep, parking in front of your house, or just not knowing our ordinances and how we live in Davis. There is little doubt that Short-Term Rentals change a community; some will even argue that they destroy communities.
An online petition has been started to argue perceived advantages of unlimited and unregulated Short-Term Rentals based on the perspective of both owners and tourists. The vast majority of people responding thus far do not live here full time and we would like to respond to the points they make:
- Nonresidents are complaining about rights being limited. These are the same people who live in areas with unbounded government overreach who want to pretend that we live in an area without any ordinances, regulations, or procedures. West Virginia code Section 8-12-5(44) requires that “the Council act in the interest of public health, safety and welfare.” We consider it our duty to represent the residents and their wellbeing. That does not mean we are against any particular faction that wants to do business in Davis, but when economic interests threaten the very existence of our community, we must take a stand for the public good. If this is a choice between income of owners of short-term rentals or preserving the nature of our community, the town council is going to protect our residents.
- Completely inaccurate is the claim that “over half of real estate in Davis is owned by non-residents” based on documented services to the town.
- Davis is not just a “mountain sports tourism destination”, but also a place where people live full time. Owners who have moved here and are now permanent residents are eligible for an exception that allows them to use their properties for Short-Term Rentals. Tourism here is based purely on activities available, sites to visit, amenities including the arts, brewery/distilleries and food options. Short Term Rentals are here because of the tourist activity that pre-existed them.
- Davis and the surrounding areas currently have more job opportunities than we have people able to work. The limitation on filling jobs is due to a lack of workforce housing which Short-Term Rentals make even more scarce. Though Short-Term Rentals might eventually provide additional low paying jobs, but they do not provide an opportunity for upward mobility in Davis.
- Small Business Impact: People are willing to drive all over the county to participate in activities and patronize shops and restaurants. It is ludicrous that someone staying in Thomas wouldn’t drive 2 miles to Davis. Those who provide Short-Term Rentals on William Ave are not limited by the proposed ordinance and are providing the foot traffic for Davis businesses. Based on observation, most other Short-Term Renters within the town of Davis choose to use their cars.
- Blighted Properties: The Council is considering opportunities for Short-Term Rental licensing for owners that turn blighted properties, vacant property, and vacant lots into Short-Term Rentals.
- Second Homeowners: Davis is a community of residents and the local townspeople have indicated their desire for it to stay that way. It would be useful to see on the petition the names and addresses of the signatories to see how many are residents of Davis and how many are non-residents. We believe the majority of signers are tourists and second homeowners rather than residents. If someone would like a second home in Davis and does not meet the criteria for an exception of which there are a number, perhaps they should consider other options for funding than Short-Term Rentals.
- Visitors: The Davis Town Council is not opposed to change. Change is inevitable but our goal is to regulate change in a fashion that allows for business opportunities AND the protection of our residential community. Contrary to a claim that infers vacation rentals are the lodging of choice for Americans, as of July 31, 2021, 72% of Americans prefer hotels and resorts to vacation rentals.
- Safety: Some owners are resistant to our attempt to ensure that there are safe and healthy rentals in Davis. The Council believes that all rental property needs to be inspected and verified as safe. The Town of Davis plans to pay for inspections. We don’t believe that anyone should rent, short or long term, a space where hazards exist.
We want to keep our community feel and our way of life in Davis as much as possible. The Council is creating an ordinance that is not a ban, but limits uncontrolled growth of Short-Term Rentals. To our community’s Short-Term Rental owners: some think our ordinance is a bad thing. Our goal is to limit how many Short-Term Rentals can be in the residential area and encourage them toward the business area of town. We hope your neighbor is someone you know and not a steady stream of short-term renters coming and going. Davis is our community. We collectively determine where and what businesses exist. Those who do not live here full time may not agree with that, but it is OUR community and our HOME.