The Northampton County Board of Supervisors meet Tuesday in the county’s historic courthouse. 

By Ted Shockley

 

When it comes to tourists staying in Northampton County, the number of lodging options is more than anyone would expect.

In all, there are 255 different places that pay transient occupancy taxes to the county for short-term rentals, said Charlene Gray, Northampton’s Commissioner of the Revenue.

And that number doesn’t include the highway hotels or anywhere else in Exmore, which manages its own collections.

Most of them aren’t motels or bed-and-breakfast inns — they are short-term rentals by a landowner who has an extra home, extra room or even a camper in the yard.

Call it the “AirBnB” phenomenon, where just about anyone can go online and rent a room for a vacation. And it is a lucrative business in Northampton County, which drew $430,000 in transient occupancy tax last year.

“A lot of them are using AirBnB as an agent,” said Gray. ‘They are popping up everywhere.”

For months, Northampton County has been looking at whether zoning regulations should be adopted to govern vacation rentals of fewer than 30 days. Like other communities, the county doesn’t want rollicking vacationers interrupting longtime residents next door.

“Most of the communities in the state are dealing with the issue of short-term rentals,” said Spencer Murray, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, at its Feb. 12 meeting.

The discussion on short-term rentals again took place at the meeting, with Supervisor David Fauber saying current county codes already prohibit excessive noise, excessive outdoor lighting and other factors, effectively controlling the rentals.

In addition, permitting and re-permitting several hundred short-term rentals could be a drain on staff resources, Fauber and Murray agreed.

Whatever the resolution on short-term rentals, Murray said a degree of diligence was needed.

“We need to take the time to get it right,” he said.