Town of Amherst to hold public hearing on short term rentals

The public hearing is set for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

AMHERST, Va. – Amherst town leaders are holding a public hearing on whether to allow Airbnb or short term rentals in residential neighborhoods in the town.

Airbnb owner Emily Wynn said she received a letter in the mail from the town after she started renting her house on Pine Street last year. That letter told Wynn her property wasn’t in compliance.

“We’ve just been working through the process hoping to be able to continue operating as an Airbnb,” Wynn said.

In a public hearing Wednesday night, Wynn will present her case to the town council.

Town Manager Sara McGuffin said there’s a couple ways Wynn’s case and short term rentals could be handled going forward.

“Right now, we don’t have a provision for it in our zoning ordinance,” McGuffin said. “In order for them to get compliant they either need to be rezoned or get a special use permit, or have a change in the ordinance.”

What comes out of the town meeting could have a big impact if the request is rejected because it could prevent future short term rentals in neighborhoods.

“If the decision is denied, I know there are quite a few people behind me with applications for Airbnbs as well,” Wynn said. “So obviously this will affect everybody else too in town.”

McGuffin said the issue has been deeply divisive.

“The pro-side people are very much it’s a property rights issue, and it’s not significantly different than any residential use, and they feel like Airbnb is the way of the future,” McGuffin said. “On the anti-side, people really are concerned about traffic, strangers, concerns about people running a business in a residential neighborhood.”

The public hearing is Wednesday at 7 p.m. Town leaders could be voting on the issue at the next council hearing on March 8.

About the Author

Amy Cockerham joined the 10 News team in January 2023.

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