Asheville City Council to hear public comment on short-term rentals

Asheville City Council will return to its regular, bi-weekly meeting schedule on Tuesday, Aug. 25. Likely hot topics include changes in regulations controlling Homestay rentals and increases in fees for violating the current prohibition on short-term vacation rentals.

The agenda will kick off with the designation of two special dates: Aug. 25, the 75th Anniversary of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville and Sept. 18, “Asheville Buncombe Time Capsule Day.”

Council will vote on a Consent Agenda including:

  • Authorization of possession and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages at three upcoming outdoor festivals: Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival on Sept. 6, Oktoberfest on Oct. 10 and Howlin’ Halloween on Oct. 31
  • Funding for and selection of Patton Construction Group for Haywood Rd. improvements including new sidewalks and a bike lane. New Belgium Brewery has contributed $50,000 toward this project, which will impact Haywood Road between W. Beverly Street and Craven Street.
  • Selection of Rivertop Contracting for a downtown pressure-washing and unwanted vegetation removal contract

Council will hear a presentation from the Mayor’s Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, as well as an update on state legislation affecting Asheville.

Zoning Requests

The applicant for the first scheduled public hearing topic, conditional zoning for 39 Elm St., related to the proposed construction of a five-story hotel with parking, has requested continuance to Nov. 10.

A second zoning-related agenda item will consider a request to expand the permitted uses of two adjacent properties at 960 and 966 Tunnel Road. The smaller of the two properties, 966 Tunnel Road, is currently zoned RM-6 (residential multifamily low density district) and contains a vacant residential structure, while 960 Tunnel Road is currently zoned for office use. The developer, Monmovin, LLC, proposes to use the two properties for office, health and fitness, residential, artist studio and instructional services uses. Monmovin, LLC requests rezoning of both parcels to CB-I CZ (community business I conditional zoning) to allow for this new development and to provide shared parking.

Homestays

Council will hear public comment on proposed amendments to sections of the Unified Development Ordinance regulating Homestays.

According to a staff report prepared by Asheville’s Department of Planning & Urban Design and in response to direction provided by City Council, a Homestay is distinguished from a short-term residential rental property by the following features:

While Asheville does not allow a stand-alone vacation rental, it does allow a Homestay rental as an alternative. Both typically allow visitors to rent a residential home for periods of fewer than 30 days, however, the stand-alone rental is often an investment property that remains unoccupied (except by visitors) while the Homestay requires that the owner of the property, or a full-time resident, reside in the home with the guests.

The proposed changes to the Unified Development Ordinance amend the current definition of a Homestay to the following language:

Homestay means a private, resident-occupied dwelling, with up to three guest rooms where overnight lodging accommodations are provided to transients for compensation and where the use is subordinate and incidental to the main residential use of the building. A homestay is considered a “lodging” use under this UDO.

Additional changes remove certain requirements for operating a Homestay and add or clarify other requirements. Overall, the changes (combined with clarification and increased enforcement of the city’s policy on short-term stand-alone rentals) are expected to increase the number of Homestay rentals within the city.

To meet the increased need for inspections, registration and enforcement associated with expanding opportunities for Homestays, the city will add one full-time staff person. This person will also be responsible for proactive investigation and enforcement of the city’s prohibition on short-term housing rentals. At the city’s current level of staffing, enforcement is limited to responding to citizen-initiated complaints. The expected annual cost for the new staff person will be around $60,000.

Penalties for Short-Term Lodging Violations

The stick to the Homestay carrot is a proposed increase in the penalty for violations of the city’s existing prohibition on short-term housing rentals. The current Unified Development Ordinance states: “In no case shall a dwelling unit be rented or leased for intervals of less than one month.” This restriction applies to properties in residential districts; short-term rentals are permitted in the central business district. The current fine for violations is $100/day for each day the violation continues.

With the enormous and growing popularity of online reservation sites such as AirBnB and VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), and with rental rates often far exceeding $100 per night, current penalties have largely failed to serve as a deterrent against violating the ordinance. The city proposes increasing the fee for violations to $500/day.

New Business

Picking up on last month’s request by the the Civic Center Commission, council will vote on naming the U.S. Cellular Center lobby the “Jan Davis Lobby” in honor of the councilman, who will not seek re-election to the body in November.

Council also will vote on the proposed Planning & Zoning Commission candidate essay questions. Applications are still being accepted for appointment to this commission, and will close on Tuesday, Aug. 25 at 5 p.m. Applications may be requested by calling 259-5601.

The full agenda can be found here.

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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One thought on “Asheville City Council to hear public comment on short-term rentals

  1. Grant Milin

    When will they seek out comments from long-term renters on the rest of the long-term renter agenda? After all, renters and their kids make up almost half the Asheville citizenry.

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