Asheville poised to strictly limit vacation rentals

VACATION RENTAL CRACKDOWN: As more residential units in commercial districts are converted to short-term rentals, such as six units at 35 Patton Ave. above the Lobster Trap, pictured, Asheville City Council could severely limit where they are allowed. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe

ASHEVILLE — Property owners wanting to list a whole unit on Airbnb or VRBO might find it more difficult in the future if Asheville City Council passes heavy restrictions on short-term vacation rentals at its Tuesday, Jan. 9 meeting.

Last week, in a 4-1 vote, Asheville’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of an amendment to the city’s zoning code to define short-term vacation rentals, or STVRs, separately from other types of lodging and to restrict where those rentals are permitted as a use by right.

City Council is slated to hold a public hearing on the amendment, which seeks to do three things: define lodging types that had previously been undefined; designate where each use is allowed; and require an annual permit for short-term vacation rentals.

Under the proposed amendment, short-term vacation rentals are defined as “a dwelling unit with up to six guest rooms that is used and/or advertised through an online platform, or other media, for transient occupancy for a period of less than one month” and they are considered a lodging use. The change also creates new categories for large, small and extended-stay hotels and refines the definitions of bed-and-breakfasts and boardinghouses.

The new wording also states, “A dwelling unit rented or leased for intervals of less than one month is considered a ‘Lodging’ use under this UDO.” The proposed amendment defines a dwelling unit as: “one or more rooms physically arranged so as to create an independent housekeeping establishment for occupancy by one family with separate toilets, sleeping rooms and a kitchen.” Homestays, meaning a resident-occupied dwelling unit with up to two guest rooms, would still be permitted with special restrictions.

A public hearing to consider the conditional zoning of 153 Smokey Park Highway for the renovation and expansion of an Ingles-anchored multi-tenant commercial development, originally scheduled for the Jan. 9 meeting, has been postponed to Jan. 23.

Unfinished business

Council could make decisions about the future of the Energy Innovation Task Force, a joint project established in 2016 among Buncombe County, the city of Asheville and Duke Energy Progress to move Western North Carolina toward clean energy. On the Jan. 9 agenda is a multipronged item that seeks Council’s approval of:

  • reiterating its commitment to long-term support of the EITF.
  • reallocating $25,000 of funds already budgeted for EITF to a new Blue Horizons Project aimed at getting the public involved in reducing energy use. The county, Duke and the city would each contribute $25,000 toward the marketing and outreach campaign, including creating a campaign coordinator position to be housed at the Green Built Alliance.
  • authorizing a memorandum of understanding to continue enlisting the Rocky Mountain Institute to help with research in EITF’s effort to delay or avoid the construction of an additional fossil fuel-powered combustion turbine electricity generating facility at the Asheville plant site in 2023. If approved, the city would agree to pay for half of RMI’s contract, or up to $50,000, with the county paying the other half of what it is expected to be $90,000 in work and $9,000 in travel expenses.

Council will also look at moving forward with the process of creating affordable housing on three sites. The elected officials have said they will put $15 million of general obligation bond funds toward the redevelopment of city-owned land for affordable housing.

Last February, Council approved performing due diligence on three properties as a first step toward building affordable housing there: 171-179 S. Charlotte St., 81-91 Riverside Drive and 319 Biltmore Ave. Now, city staff have narrowed down a field of potential consultants to study the feasibility of achieving successful affordable housing on each of the three properties.

Council could vote on whether to approve $240,660 to contract with Atlanta-based architecture and design firm Lord Aeck Sargent to undertake the affordable housing study, which would be funded through the city’s available cash resources.

Consent agenda

Council could approve a $26,600 budget amendment to fund the city’s required match for a grant to purchase ballistic vests. The city’s match would come out of the Asheville Police Department budget and would buy 71 bulletproof vests over two years.  

As Asheville has long been identified as a high-intensity drug traffic area, the Office of National Drug Control Policy administers a task force focusing on high-volume, high-value drug trafficking in the area. Council is being asked to approve a budget amendment of $22,300 for the 2017 HIDTA grant project.

Council will consider authorizing the city manager to apply for a grant to pay for an additional year of the DWI Task Force, a joint effort of the Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. The task force began operating in 2014 after receiving a grant from the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program. If approved, the city of Asheville would pay $227,400 to go toward the salaries for six law enforcement officers focusing on DWI enforcement. The county would pay $103,500, and NCGHSP grant funds would be used to fund 25 percent of the costs of salary and benefits.

The city could pay more than originally expected for upgrades to the North Fork and Mills River water treatment plants. In October 2015, City Council approved a professional engineering services agreement for $364,000 with Brown and Caldwell, but due to “unforeseen issues,” Council is being asked to increase the budget $70,000 to a total of $434,000.

In September, the city won a $633,300 federal grant to purchase zero-emission buses. The city’s total budget to purchase five new battery-electric buses has increased from original estimates of $3.1 million to a now-projected $3.6 million. After applying other transit funds and grants, the city will decide whether to approve a budget amendment of $481,000 from the Transit Capital Projects Fund.

October’s heavy rains caused a landslide below Skyview Place that slid down to Sunset Drive. The city will consider a $750,000 budget amendment to pay for a retaining wall to repair the slope failure.  

Presentations and reports

Council will be presented with the comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017. It can be seen here.

Public comment

Council will hear comment from members of the public on items not previously discussed on Council’s agenda.

Asheville City Council meets at 5 p.m. in Council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 70 Court Plaza, Asheville. The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.

For more of the latest city and county news, check out XpressBuncombe Beat.

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About Carolyn Morrisroe
Carolyn Morrisroe served as news editor and reporter at Mountain Xpress. Follow me @CarolynMorrisro

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