One of the biggest tourist towns in North Georgia becomes the latest to pass restrictions on short term rentals like those through Airbnb and VRBO.
The council vote 4-1 last week to ban short term rentals inside the city limits except those within the Central Business District and those with a commercial zoning. Rentals in unincorporated Fannin County are not affected.
“We’ve had concerns and we’ve had a few folks that wonder about why there’s so much traffic in and out of some of the homes. That’s how we’ve actually discovered there’s some nightly rentals in those places,” Mayor Donna Whitener tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
Current rentals that have been paying sales tax to the city for 12 consecutive months would be grandfathered in and other homes could go before the city to seek a variance to allow it.
>>LISTEN TO SANDRA PARRISH’S FULL REPORT BELOW.
Homeowners like Richard Arnold complain it takes away the rights of property owners. He manages several Airbnb rentals and worries about the affect it will have on those owners’ ability to sell in the future.
“They can continue to rent their property because they’re grandfathered in because they’ve paid their city lodging taxes. But it affects their ability to be able to sell their property to someone who wants to do the same thing,” he says.
Pam O’Dell who runs the Short Term Rental Owners Association of Georgia expects it to having chilling effect on investors and tourism. She believes investors will no longer want to buy and renovate homes in the downtown area to use as rentals.
“A lot of people love downtown Blue Ridge. It is a pretty place and many people in the downtown area have worked long and hard to make it that way. That’s what attracts people. And if you have no place to stay, that’s an issue,” she says.
Whitener has until the end of this week to sign the ordinance or veto parts of it, which she says it likely.
“We’re not trying to cause anyone a hardship, but we also want to protect our residents. We do have residents with major concerns. They want to know who their neighbors are,” she says.