Lawyers meet over Davis’ short-term rental situation

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DAVIS, WV — Last week, a special city council meeting was called at Davis Volunteer Fire Department Hall to discuss the city’s moratorium on short-term rentals. The city imposed 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, during the last council meeting.

Davis and Thomas business owners created the Davis Rental Property Owners Alliance in response to the moratorium. The group contacted Kin Sayre, an attorney for Bowles Rice, who said the moratorium might be illegal. Mayor Al Tomson said a letter from Sayre was the catalyst for last week’s meeting.

“I think you have to take note when you get a legal letter from a legal organization that says you can’t do the things you want to do,” Tompson said.

Welcome to Davis sign

A crowd of about 40 to 50 people attended the meeting, during which the board asked Sayre a few questions about his understanding of West Virginia’s code. One of Sayre’s main points was that a city cannot regulate the types of businesses differently unless it has a zoning plan, and that the moratorium could become a liability for the city if someone decides to to chase.

“They’re trying to single out a certain classification of businesses and regulate, prohibit, and restrict in a way that we don’t think they have the power to do,” Sayre said.

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 the regulations, but she thinks the city is focusing on the wrong things and that if the city drives short-term rentals away, local businesses will suffer.

The Wandering Caravan Shop is a shop in Davis, WV.

“The 27 people doing short-term rentals here, that number is going to dwindle to nothing, and we don’t have enough hotels to transport the number of people who come to this area,” Luscombe said, “and they’ll start going to other places, and we’re all going to feel that, and that’s a concern for me.

The town of Davis was accompanied by an attorney, Rob Chenoweth, who said the meeting went well and was very informative.

“Obviously, [Sayre] is a well-versed municipal lawyer who had good points and good ideas. I think the board had good questions about the best course of action with this issue and nothing got out of hand,” Chenoweth said.

No decision was made at the special meeting.

“What it looks like in the end is hard to say because every time we have a meeting, the board and I learn new information, so it’s a learning process,” Tomson said during meeting, “None of us have done this before. Many of you who are involved have never done this before. So we are all learning as we go and working together.

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