Homestay short-term renters push for looser kitchen definition

Asheville City Council's Planning & Economic Development Committee, consisting of Vijay Kapoor, right, Julie Mayfield, center, and Gwen Wisler.
KITCHEN QUANDARY: Asheville City Council's Planning & Economic Development Committee, consisting of Vijay Kapoor, left, Julie Mayfield, center, and Gwen Wisler, hear public comment about the city's homestay ordinance. Photo by Daniel Walton

At the end of the Aug. 13 Planning & Economic Development Committee meeting, Council member and committee Chair Julie Mayfield offered some culinary advice to an angry crowd of roughly 80 people who had gathered in the U.S. Cellular Center banquet hall. “Honey works better than vinegar,” she remarked. “You can yell at us all day long if you want to; I’m going to suggest it’s not a particularly effective method of advocacy.”

The meeting’s attendees, the majority of whom seemed to be engaged in operating a homestay in the city, had been venting their frustration over the city’s definition of a kitchen, which many said had created unnecessary barriers to the use of their properties. Under a January amendment to city zoning regulations, any room or suite containing a kitchen may not be used as a guest room; this change was meant to keep such spaces in the city’s long-term housing supply.

According to the current definition, any area “used or designed to be used for the preparation or cooking of food” and containing “a sink less than 18 inches in depth with a waste line drain 1½ inches or greater in diameter” is classified as a kitchen. But homestay operators said the rule was unrealistic and had caused conflict with city staff over enforcement, prompting the committee to ask staff for a review of the ordinance in July.

“I think that the city is in over its head,” said resident Brandee Boggs. “I appreciate [Principal Planner] Shannon Tuch and [Code Enforcement Officer] Shannon Morgan and y’all’s time and energy you’ve put toward this; I think I can speak for all of us that we’ve lost faith in the city government around this issue,” she continued to applause from the audience, which Mayfield quickly raised a hand to quiet.

Other regulatory aspects also came under fire. Resident Tamera Trexler cited city language that prevented her, as an Airbnb co-host, from leaving the property “on vacation, visiting friends or family, traveling out of town for business or personal reasons, etc.” whenever the homestay was rented. “You have put me on house arrest!” she read from a prepared statement.

“There is nothing that says you can’t go on vacation,” Mayfield said, in apparent contradiction of the zoning standard. “Shannon Morgan stood in my kitchen and told me that,” one audience member interjected from the crowd.

In response to an Xpress request for clarification, Development Services Director Ben Woody confirmed that the ordinance does require the long-term resident’s overnight presence during homestay activities. “However, the ordinance does not restrict the resident from conducting daily business,” Woody added. “The resident can travel overnight but must suspend homestay operations when he or she is not present overnight.”

Although the committee cut off public comment before all those in line had a chance to speak, citing the need for Council member Vijay Kapoor to catch a flight, it did recommend that staff throw out the kitchen sink from the current definition. Joined by Council member Gwen Wisler, Kapoor and Mayfield moved to adopt staff’s “maximum flexibility” definition for kitchen, which reads as follows:

“Kitchen means an area within a structure that is used or designed to be used for the preparation or cooking of food and that contains cooking appliances including, but not limited to: ovens, convection ovens, stoves, stove tops, built-in grills or similar appliances.”

However, the committee also directed staff to move forward with tightening a number of other standards, including those for the permitted uses of bedrooms, prohibition of homestays in accessory dwelling units and consequences for zoning violations. Staff estimated that the changes will next come up for consideration at the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 3.


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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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8 thoughts on “Homestay short-term renters push for looser kitchen definition

  1. Sara Barnes

    Please reach out yo the county and establish some rules and controls! This county as well as thus city is destroying itself!

    • Lulz

      Only fools play by the rules dictated to them by those that are not looking out for their best interests. Why struggle to satisfy the lunacy of housing stock in a city where they only want wealthier people to move here to pay higher taxes? They want people like you out of here. You stand in the way of their spending sprees.

  2. Packie

    We have a terrible problem with outsiders with no Asheville roots, just utter stark greed, buying into our neighborhoods. Then without any respect for us who have lived here in good neighborhoods for decades they convert nice homes into nightly rooms, apartments or entire houses for hire like hotels. Officials in the city license them as homestays, but they are unlawful short term rentals. Officials have assured us over and over again that they have gone “proactive,” that they will prosecute the senseless blighting of our residential neighborhoods and stop these STRs. But they don’t.

    We have emailed and emailed council members. They pretend to respond but don’t. We have conferred with Gary Jackson, Esther Manheimer, Gwen Wisler, Shannon Tuch, and other council persons. We have complained to Shannon Morgan, Shannon Tuch, Diane Meek, and all the other pertinent officials, and nothing, not a damn thing, has been done to stop this shameless destruction by lawbreakers.

    Let me give you an example. A house nearby on our family zoned street has an ADU. The ADU has a separate entrance, an electric stove which is advertised as such on, and a homestay permit! The homestay permit is a fraud for which city officials ought to be fired and then prosecuted. Except we know Asheville is run by dirty politics and amoral politicians who run for office to gratify their own selfish interests.

    Besides that the homeowner who is from Oklahoma and claims she’s a retired teacher for blind children leaves the ADU occupied for an entire weekend while she travels. She used to be out in the open about it, but now she sneaks off and loads her luggage into another car and leaves her black Prius in the driveway to make it look like she is at home. Well, you get the gist although there is so much more to tell about the awful way we are being treated at city hall.

  3. Enlightened Enigma

    An ADU is supposed to have a separate entrance…it’s an accessory dwelling unit and yes it can have a stove.

    betting that all the folks named above are registered democrackkks for sure. democrackkks are inherently EVIL.

    • Buncy

      Gee, Freddie Fish, you gotta go off-topic and stalk democracks in every thread?

      The question we’re dealing with here among so many others is whether an ADU like a basement apartment can legally operate as a homestay within the meaning of the city ordinances. We have one or more of the odious nuisances in our neighborhood: illegal STRs posing as licensed homestays. Our closest ADU is a basement apartment with a separate and remote backyard keypad entrance, a kitchen with stove, and a homeowner who leaves the home for the weekend or for days at a time whenever she takes a notion. It is obviously not a homestay. The question then arises: Is this ADU licit or illicit? We say it is illicit but the city does absolutely nothing about it:

      And it reinforces my studied conclusion, gathered over several years, that at least this zoning compartment of city government is being operated by corrupt people who are themselves engaging in violations of the law, as well as public corruption.

      Now I am a good listener and willing to consider that I may be partly or wholly in error. If so how about somebody telling me in a gentle manner, without mudslinging, that I am in error. Or agree with me that the city itself is a big hypocrite and a scofflaw.

  4. Buncy

    To the City of Asheville, City Council, City Manager, and others in charge of zoning enforcement: I have frequently surfed in the COA blog which allows comments but never lets them be published (which says something about your claims of transparency). If you don’t proactively enforce your ordinances (and you don’t although you declare that you do) the laws become meaningless shams and people lose respect for them. Asheville exists in a maze of official anarchy. It is a contagion and one of the reasons why your courts next door are so sickly with bad judges perverting our laws.

    There’s no healthy 2-party system here. Otherwise, the Democrats wouldn’t have an exclusive in the City Building and the courthouse. Oh, there may be a closet Republican or two, but you think you’re unaccountable, like Wanda Greene thought she was.

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