The cost of short-term rentals in Lewes may be increasing in 2023.
Over the last few years, the demand for short-term rentals has increased exponentially, particularly in Lewes. While innocent on the surface, an increase in short-term rentals can often stress the resources of any municipality. Municipalities may not have the infrastructure in place to facilitate the potentially large influx of people during any particularly busy season or large event.
Lewes finds itself in a unique position when it comes to short-term rentals because of its geography and unique history. People visit Lewes for a variety of reasons, including the beaches and history, making it a popular spot for tourists and a logical location for short-term rentals. Wanting to preserve the characteristics of the city that make it such a desirable vacation destination, Lewes functions as a town of busy days and quiet nights.
At just over 4 square miles, those busy days can sometimes be filled with the occasional traffic jam, long waits for restaurants and difficulty finding parking. The quiet nights can be jeopardized if a short-term renter chooses to host a party that drags into the morning hours. Transportation and public safety officials, whose budget and workforce are determined by census information and traffic statistics, may find themselves having to navigate a population larger than they are designed to. Currently, there is no way to officially track the amount of people who come into Lewes and stay in the short-term rentals. The city collects a 5% gross rental receipts tax that covers all rentals.
A newly formed short-term rental committee will look at how trash removal, recycling, traffic, parking and police are impacted by the short-term rentals. They will consider recommendations to mayor and city council regarding zoning options to help manage short-term rentals, need for additional regulations to manage short-term rentals, possible need to differentiate the gross rental receipts tax rate for short-term rentals versus long-term rentals, and need to revise licensing fees and requirements for short-term rentals.
The ad hoc committee comprises people from a variety of backgrounds and will discuss the most effective way to assess fees with the most universal benefit. Council members Carolyn Jones and Khalil Saliba are on the committee, with Jones as the chair. Residents Winnie Kee, Don Long and Tonya Flickinger are also on the committee along with City Manager Ann Marie Townshend and Assistant City Manager Ellen Lorraine McCabe.
Members met for the first time May 16 to discuss the scope of the committee and overall goals. The next meeting is slated for 10 a.m., Tuesday, June 14. They will meet six to seven times over the course of the summer. Members aim to conclude meetings by the end of September with the goal of presenting recommendations to mayor and city council in the fall to allow any changes to take effect in 2023.