Second STR listening session planned for March 18

PLAN ON IT: After the listening session March 18, the Buncombe County Planning Board will finalize its recommendation to the county Board of Commissioners, which will ultimately decide what changes, if any, to make to the county’s STR ordinances. Photo by Brooke Randle

After its March 4 meeting, the nine-member Buncombe County Planning Board is one step closer to solidifying recommendations to update the county’s short-term rental regulations. 

The proposed regulations, which were introduced in December as part of the Buncombe 2043 Comprehensive Plan, would ban new whole-house short-term rentals in the unincorporated parts of Buncombe County unless they were located within five commercial zones or in the county’s residential open-use zone. Existing short-term rentals would not be affected by the changes but would require a county permit. 

Within the open-use district, the proposal would allow grouped complexes between three and 10 STRs under a special-use permit but would not allow residents to operate a single STR. Short-term rentals would be prohibited in mobile home parks regardless of the district in which they are located.

The regulations also would change the definition of short-term rental to allow only single-family, detached units to be rented short term. Structures that are not approved for permanent habitation, such as travel trailers, recreational vehicles, sheds, vehicles or tents, would be banned from short-term rental use. Short-term rentals also would not be permitted within attached dwelling units, including but not limited to duplexes, townhomes or multifamily units.

Some board members asked that county staff modify the proposed language to allow residents to rent out a portion of their primary residences or accessory dwelling units.

“My personal preference would be not to eliminate [accessory dwelling units] in any of the districts until we get to that conversation about homestays,” said board member John Noor. “One of the things, at least in my mind, that’s been very clear is [that] I don’t want to prohibit people who are living on a piece of property from having an ADU out back or in their house.”

County Planning Director Nathan Pennington said staff planned to address the issue of homestays, which may include accessory dwelling units and other potential types of STRs, after updating the language for whole-house rentals. 

The City of Asheville does not allow whole-house short-term rentals but does permit homestays in which a resident can rent out a portion of their home. Renting an ADU short-term is not permitted in the city limits, however, Pennington emphasized that the county could create its own definition of a homestay that could include ADUs and other types of structures. 

The new regulations would reduce the permitted size of STRs from 9,000 square feet to no more than 4,000 square feet, which drew concern from several board members who said that the restriction could have implications for families or people who rent STRs for weddings and other events.

“There are homes here that are used for vacation homes, and there’s certainly homes elsewhere that are used that are bigger than 4,000 square feet that are used for the purposes of wedding parties, et cetera,” said board Chair Nancy Waldrop. “Does that mean we’re eliminating the possibility of that?”

“When you start getting a larger house, the more people come,  [there’s] more noise, more activity,” said Pennington. “This is an attempt to set a threshold.” 

Board members reversed a previous staff suggestion that would not grandfather a permit upon the sale of a home. They settled on allowing existing STRs to continue to be grandfathered as long as they are rented at least twice every 180 days. Otherwise, the permit lapses.

The work session was the third meeting since proposed amendments were released in December. Following the initial staff recommendations, the county held a listening session Jan. 22, which reached the meeting room capacity. At that meeting, opinions were sharply divided among residents. 

The comments ranged from personal experiences depicting how short-term rentals negatively affect neighborhoods and contribute to Buncombe County’s housing crisis, to others who said income from short-term rentals allowed owners to build generational wealth or stay in their homes when experiencing economic hardships. 

Public comment was not allowed at the work sessions. However, the Planning Board will hold a second listening session Monday, March 18, at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium starting at 5:30 p.m., when residents can share their views.  

After the listening session, the Buncombe County Planning Board will finalize language during its Monday, April 1, regular meeting. A public hearing on the issue will be held Monday, April 22. The board will then make its recommendation to the county Board of Commissioners, which is the governing body that will ultimately decide what changes, if any, to make to the county’s ordinances.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.