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JEFFERSON — As previously reported by the Ashe Post & Times, some short-term rentals in Ashe County have been restricted. The towns of West Jefferson and Lansing made the decision to limit short-term rentals as a preventative measure, which went into effect March 26 at 5 p.m., to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The new amendment to Ashe County’s State of Emergency Declaration, announced March 22, was added in an effort to reduce non-essential travel to Ashe County by non-residents.

The goal of the reduction in travel by non-residents to Ashe is to ultimately slow the speed of transmission locally and to reduce stress on our medical facilities, emergency services and other local resources.

“We want the community to know that we took great care in coming to this decision. We understand fully that this decision will impact some of our property owners financially, however this decision was made here in Ashe, by the people of Ashe, and with the best interest of our community at heart. Limiting short term rentals to protect our citizens from this pandemic is the right call for the moment and we will constantly evaluate the situation in order to lift this restriction the moment we can do so safely and responsibly,” Ashe County Board of Commissioners Chairman Todd McNeill said.

These new restrictions include the towns of West Jefferson and Lansing and are applicable to hotels, motels, resorts, inns, guest houses, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, RV parks, vacation cabins and home rentals. Applicable to the amendment are rentals or leases by services like, Air-BNB, Homeaway, VRBO and other rental programs where leases are for less than 60 days in duration.

4 Seasons Vacation Rentals and Sales Owner and Broker Sherrie Edwards said that if there was a time of year to shut down vacation rentals, it was now.

“It is normally our slow time anyway. March is our slowest month of vacation rentals, April being the second-slowest month,” Edwards said. “What we have seen is a huge spike in the number of owners coming to use their second home in the county, or owners’ friends coming to use their homes.”

Edwards said she understood the decision, and it was understandable and important to decrease the risk of infection and the pressure it would put on Ashe Memorial Hospital.

These emergency measures, made in the interest of public health, supersede any previously-made reservations.

The town of Jefferson was not included in these new restrictions and according to Town Manager Cathy Howell, officials came to a consensus about not limiting short-term rentals.

“It’s not to be used as just a getaway, but they’ve got to have a place to stay when they come to the county and we can’t turn away people for that reason. Say they’ve got somebody sick or dying in the hospital or the nursing home and they don’t have a home that they can go to,” Howell said. “They need a place to be able to go to.”

According to Howell, hotels located in the town’s limits are following the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines when cleaning rooms and they are keeping room limits within regulations.

It is important to note that these closures in West Jefferson and Lansing do not apply if a lease or extended overnight accommodation is rented due to work here in Ashe County for business, medical, construction, emergency services or other related services. In this situation, the employee staying at the lodging facility should have their employer provide their work-related identification badge or a letter from the employer stating the purpose of the work to be performed in Ashe County and the expected duration of the stay.

“We know there is great community concern about this pandemic, but we also know that the citizens of Ashe care about their neighbors and will do anything to protect each other. Making these sacrifices now is how we protect our friends and neighbors going forward,” Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill said.

“These additional actions by our local government officials are one additional tool towards lessening the impact of this virus on our community, especially now that NC has had its first recorded death attributed to COVID-19. We are grateful for their support of public health,” AppHealthCare Director Jennifer Greene added.

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