City Council To Honor Longtime Harrisonburg Employee

DN-R Staff Reports 3/26/19
 
HARRISONBURG — City Council will consider a resolution honoring one of Harrisonburg’s longest-serving employees during its meeting tonight.
At the top of the agenda after the pledge of allegiance is an item to recognize Reggie Smith. Smith will retire at the end of the month after 42 years leading the Harrisonburg Department of Public Transportation.
Smith, 65, is the only person to have led the department, which was formed in 1976, the same year he started. The Harrisonburg native grew the department from eight taxi cabs to a fleet of 39 transport buses, 63 school buses, and 12 para-transit buses operated by approximately 200 employees driving 2.2 million passengers a year.
The city’s is unique among public transit departments in that it also operates buses for Harrisonburg City Public Schools and James Madison University.
In other business, council will hold a second reading on ordinance changes approved at its last meeting to regulate short term rentals offered on airbnb.com and similar websites.
Through airbnb.com and other sites, renters offer all or part of their property to people who reserve the space for one or more nights, circumventing the city’s transient occupancy tax and other rules hotels and similar operations are required to follow.
The rentals are prohibited in residential areas, but many operate in the city regardless.
City officials have been exploring how to enforce rules on the properties for several months.
The ordinance changes approved March 12 provide two options for property owners to rent out their space.
They can operate an airbnb site as a “homestay,” which must be the renters’ primary residence and they must remain on site for the duration of the lodging period.
Under the other option, property owners can apply for a special-use permit, which would allow them to rent space at which they do not live. Renters would also not be required to stay on site while guests are present, though council could require it in some cases.
The base price for a special- use permit application is $425 plus $30 an acre.
The changes require renters to pay applicable lodging taxes.
As tonight’s vote is a second reading under the consent agenda portion of council’s meeting, no public comment period is scheduled. Changes are not typically made to ordinance amendments after a first reading.
Council is also scheduled to vote on a series of special event requests.
Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance has requested use of the Turner Pavilion on South Liberty Street, home to the Harrisonburg Farmers Market, on May 18 for its Downtown Dinner Party.
Eastern Mennonite University is seeking to close part of Park Road on May 5 for spring commencement exercises.
HDR is also asking for closures of city facilities to host the annual Valley Fourth celebration on July 4. Most activities will take place at Turner Pavilion and park and the City Hall and the Municipal Building parking lots.
VA Momentum is also requesting closures for its Friendly City Fourth Run on the same day.
City Council meets at 7 p.m. at 409 S. Main St.