County Seeks Comments on Short-Term Rental Regulations | News, Sports, Jobs

As the popularity of short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO explodes, there are legitimate questions about the zoning and building code implications of these types of uses.

Warren County officials are in the early stages of exploring a short-term rental ordinance.

And they want public feedback upfront.

Deputy Director of Planning Michael Lyon said his goal was to present a draft ordinance to the county planning commission in March.

He acknowledged that there is “so many people coming from different sides” of the matter and stated that currently such uses are neither “approved or denied”.

“We are really looking for feedback” Lyon stressed. “(There are) so many differing opinions.”

He said the focus, from his point of view, will be “which will benefit the county and our landowners.”

As of Thursday, there were 118 homes listed on Airbnb in Warren County. VRBO lists 124 in the area.

Arguments in support of these uses identify the stream of income that some achieve as well as issues regarding the personal use of personal assets.

Part of the opposition can be called NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard.

“It’s the transient nature of Airbnbs that is the biggest concern,” said Lyons.

He said the opposition he has heard raises concerns about different people constantly on the sidelines as well as the potential for “Party until dawn.” He noted, however, that he had not received any such complaints about these parties.

However, he acknowledged an incident at an Airbnb in Pittsburgh earlier this year that left two dead and nine injured in a shooting at a party.

The opponents have “valid complaints”, Lyon recognized.

He said there has been a shift from people renting out their personal homes to people buying homes for the sole purpose of renting.

The webinars he has attended detail that there are also companies that buy homes to use only as short-term rentals.

He said it effectively removes apartments from a community’s housing stock.

“(It’s) too early to say what (a county ordinance) will look like”, Lyons added. “We are different from downtown Pittsburgh.”

There is also “not a ton of comparables,” he added, looking at what other counties have done.

The “big argument” is that short-term rentals should be considered commercial properties. This, he said, would result in the disappearance of many people, as the building code requires commercial structures to be sprinklered.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on the issue in a 2019 opinion in Slice of Life v. Hamilton Township Zoning Hearing Board.

According to this decision available on, the court was invited to “determine whether a zoning ordinance that defines “family” as requiring “single housekeeping unit” authorizes purely transitional use of a property within a residential zoning district. »

The court recognized that the issue “arises based on the increasingly popular concept of web-based rentals or single-family homes for vacationers and other transient users for a few days at a time.”

The final decision was that “purely transitional use of a house is not a permitted use in a residential zoning district” thus defined.

Lyon said he was unaware, however, that the decision in that case had been made binding.

He said he did not foresee a residential zone restriction, but acknowledged the need for caution, especially since many municipalities in the county are unzoned.

In light of this, it would be possible that different regulations are in place on different sides of the Allegheny River – Pleasant and Tidioute are zoned while Brokenstraw is not, for example.

There are also economic implications.

Lyon said someone who comes to stay at an Airbnb is likely spending money elsewhere.

“That’s what we want them to do,” he said. “We have to look (at) what Warren County is going to do going forward. That’s part of it.

He encouraged anyone with ideas to email him at [email protected].

“It would be useful to know what people think” he said.

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