City Council Forms Task Force To Look At Short-Term Rentals
Last updated 8/18/2021 at 8:50pm
Short-term rentals (STRs) were the main topic of discussion at Monday night’s regular meeting of the Brevard City Council, as council members unanimously approved assembling a task force to explore the issue in greater detail, to identify how STRs are impacting the city and decide what can, or should, be done about them.
City attorney Mack McKeller introduced the topic, saying that several months ago, at the behest of council, he began researching to see if the city could craft a statement on its position related to STRs.
Currently, the city’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) does recognize STRs as “any home rented out for less than 30 days.” Short-term rentals are allowed in residential, residential-mixed use, neighborhood -mixed use and downtown-mixed use districts. That language and those location regulations were adopted in 2017.
Speaking to the legal remedies the city had to better govern STRs, McKeller said there aren’t many options available.
Under state statute, municipalities can’t enact moratoriums on issues dealing with residential use. The General Assembly also prohibits cities from requiring permits for STRs.
Case law regarding legislation passed by cities targeting STRs has been a “mixed bag,” McKeller said, adding that the city could implement an additional tax on STRs, but that tax would have to be approved at the state level.
Residential use is strongly protected by the courts, as well as the General Assembly, and any ordinance pertaining to STRs would be thoroughly scrutinized and would have to show good grounds to receive approval, McKeller said.
There is also the issue of monitoring STRs, which McKeller said would be a big undertaking and one that would probably require additional funding and staffing.
Board member Maurice Jones said dealing with STRs wouldn’t be easy, as it could create a lot of unforeseen issues. Jones also said it would be difficult to apply standards on a citywide level that may work for some neighborhoods/districts but not work for others.
Adding to the complexity, the city currently doesn’t have an accurate total of how many STRs are in Brevard. McKeller said there are ways to go about that process, but added once again that the Planning Department is already weighed down with a lot of responsibility and the task would require either an additional hire or soliciting a third-party to create the inventory.
Board member Maureen Copelof said to properly address STRs, the board must clearly define the impacts that STRs have that the city is looking to mitigate.
The best way to do that, she said, would be exploring what regulations other municipalities had in place related to STRs and then look at what tools the City of Brevard has at its disposal and decide which of those tools would most directly address the issues.
“We can’t start defining a solution until we understand what it is we’re trying to change and impact,” Copelof said.
Council member Geraldine Dinkins suggested the board create an ad hoc task force to dig deeper into STRs and the affect they have on the community. That would be the first step toward addressing the issue at a larger level.
Dinkins and Copelof volunteered to serve on the committee as representatives of the council. McKeller was also named to the task force, along with a to-be-named member of the Planning Department. The remaining members of the task force are to be determined by council’s next meeting.
After a motion by Copelof and a second by Dinkins, the motion passed 5-0.
Council members weren’t the only ones discussing STRs on Monday, as two members of the public addressed the board during the public participation section earlier in the meeting.
First to speak was Dee Dee Perkins, who previously served on city council and is currently a member of the Transylvania County Tourism Board. Perkins opened by saying that STRs aren’t a “black and white” issue and that the solution should not be an “all or nothing approach.”
That being said, Perkins said she was concerned about STRs for several reasons, including the reduction in affordable and available housing, driving up the cost of rent, causing displacement or gentri-fication, driving away workforce and changing the dynamics of downtown neighborhoods.
Without proper management, she said, the continued growth of STRs could have “dire effects on a grand scale.”
Perkins presented council members with several options, including using zoning to set restrictions on where STRs could be located and how they could operate. She also suggested the creation of a task force to better explore the issue and urged council to be proactive in addressing STRs and to take a “thoughtful and balanced approach” during the exploratory process.
The next to speak was Lisa Presnell. Presnell is a Maple Street resident who lives with her husband and two children and said she “regularly” rents their house on Airbnb while traveling. Presnell said the family recently purchased another home in the city that they are renovating and plan to rent on Airbnb.
The income they receive from rentals, as well as the capital investment in both homes, was a “significant” portion of the family’s net worth, Presnell said, and was also a key piece of their future financial security.
Presnell said she was concerned about the city possibly enacting regulations around STRs, adding that the council shouldn’t be asking what they can legally do, but, rather, asking what is “ethically and morally responsible” and what is “realistically achievable through enacting these regulations.”
Presnell said STRs are an “easy target” when discussing the lack of affordable housing, but noted many STRs previously didn’t serve as rental properties and that most were primary residences that were purchased and then turned into STRs.
In other cases, rental properties have been purchased and turned into primary residences.
“Enacting such restrictions, regardless of the means, unjustly impacts some short-term rental owners and enriches others,” Presnell said, adding that, “to lay the burden on a handful of unlucky owners would be completely unjust.”
In other action, Council approved a motion requiring city employees to be vaccinated.