The Titusville Planning Commission met to discuss a potential AirBnB ordinance and was given the task of reviewing the Titusville Rental Licensing Program during their meeting on Thursday night.

The rental licensing program has been a hot button issue in the City since being introduced. Building Inspector Skip Welling asked the commission to review the program and either endorse, endorse with changes or recommend to eliminate the program.

According to Welling, the Titusville Rental Licensing Program came from a study done in 1996 that recommended a program of this type be implemented in the City. The program requires that landlords get a license to lease property in the City, and requires that they have their units inspected by the City.

Welling admitted that the program has come under scrutiny, and wants another set of eyes on the program to make sure it is right for the citizens of Titusville.

“This has been a controversial issue,” said Welling. He asked the Planning Commission to review the program and to ensure that the rights of the tenants and the landlords are being looked out for.

Welling asked that the members of the Planning Commission do research on the topic, and present their findings directly to City Council.

Welling said that the program is just one phase of a larger plan to protect property value and correct blight. He said that this is just one cog in a larger wheel, but wanted the Planning Commission to make sure it is “the best cog that we can have.”

The other issue on the commission’s agenda was a potential City AirBnB ordinance. The City currently does not have any ordinances regarding AirBnB, VRBO or other electronic short-term rentals.

Dr. Rhonda Clark, member of the Planning Commission, said that she feels these rentals fall under the transient lodging category, which unlike landlord rentals are subject to other taxes.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled on the issue, saying that unless the rentals are mentioned specifially in zoning, they are not permitted. Titusville currently has no zoning that mentions these types of rentals.

Six weeks ago, someone in the City applied for a zoning variance to allow them to list their house on the online rental sites. As the City did not have an ordinance, that request was withdrawn.

“We know this is something that will come up again,” said Welling.

The City asked their solicitor, Brian Cagle, to draft an ordinance, which he did. The City is now asking the Planning Commission to review the ordinance and provide feedback.

Clark said that she feels this is a complex issue, that could have a real impact on the direction the town is headed in.

“I see potential upsides and downsides,” said Clark. She believes it could help homeowners, but also hurt business owners like the Bed and Breakfasts in town.

AirBnBs would help with tourism, but if the town wants to head to an E-Commerce work remote direction, that could hinder advancement.

The planning commission will study the ordinance, do research, and then give a recommendation at their next meeting on Oct. 16.

No matter what their recommendations are, Welling believes that this ordinance is something the City needs.

“We need to get up with the times,” said Welling.

Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.

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