Letter: Bothwell fighting for fairness in regard to STRs

Graphic by Lori Deaton

It has been an honor serving with Cecil Bothwell on Asheville City Council. I know that he will always fight for fairness and equality for our citizens.

One prominent example of this is how the city deals with short-term rentals. Our city has increasingly moved in the direction toward where hoteliers and developers make money off the backs of locals. One of the few ways locals can benefit from our tourist economy is by renting out parts of their homes to those visiting Asheville. Hoteliers hate this, of course, which is why they pushed for these rentals to be shut down. In 2015, the city imposed exorbitant fines on those operating short-term rentals out of their homes ($500 a night!).

Of course, the cost of this has fallen on locals — and not just those who operate rentals. Because the short-term rental market has gone underground, the city now spends $240,000 a year of taxpayer money on enforcement. Asheville taxpayers essentially subsidize tourism through paying for the upkeep of the infrastructure tourists use — it’s unfair and unjust that the city seems to favor hoteliers over those same taxpayers.

Cecil Bothwell was the only vote on Council against these fines, and I endorse his re-election bid because I know he will always fight for locals over those with big pockets and disproportionate influence in our city. Make your vote for him on the Oct. 10 primary and the Nov. 7 general election – I know I will.

— Brian Haynes

Editor’s note: Xpress received the following update from Haynes on Oct. 10: “I am writing a follow-up, hoping to clarify any misstatements I may have made in my previous letter. After the publishing of my letter of support for Cecil Bothwell, some folks felt that my remarks implied that my colleague’s positions on STRs were based on protecting the interest of hoteliers. That wasn’t my intent, and I apologize. What I should have said is that a prohibition of STRs benefits hoteliers. This issue is both complex and evolving, and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in seeking solutions.”


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31 thoughts on “Letter: Bothwell fighting for fairness in regard to STRs

  1. Jack Igelman

    It’s perhaps no surprise that hotel growth and STRs have become a central issue of the city council election. The concern over STRs seems to symbolize the concerns that come with living in a boom town. As an AirBnB operator with a permit from the City of Asheville, I find that approaching the regulation of STRs is much more nuanced than is portrayed by councilmen Bothwell and Haynes. It is indeed legal to operate a STR in Asheville as a home stay within your residence. That’s proven to be both lucrative and enjoyable for my family and an opportunity to participate in the tourist economy. I also share the concerns that come with STRs: visitors to our neighborhoods may have an impact on homes next door and parking; it incentives speculation by STR profit seekers; and may take long term rentals off the market. Those are sensible concerns. I will vote for a candidate in the primary that is willing to take a practical approach to regulating STRs. My impression so far is that Bothwell’s approach is political, rather than practical.

    • cecil bothwell

      Jack, I’m not sure what you think my approach is, so perhaps I can explain.
      I oppose whole house STRs because that’s where we’ve had most of our problems in the past, and because it invites corporate operations that could buy up swaths of houses.
      I support STR of Accessory Dwelling Units – that is, apartments in a home or on the same property as a permit holder (thing garage apartment, for example). One permit per household, with a requirement that the permit number appear in all ads, with neighbors notified of a 24/7 contact number in case of problems. If there are legal violations a permit could be cancelled (perhaps three strikes on noise … as an example … though there are rarely noise violations in ADU rentals.)
      The difference between your legal HomeStay and an illegal ADU today is the presence of a stove. You can provide a hot plate and a microwave, but not a full range. Isn’t that kind of stupid? Of course rooms with a stove CAN be rented long term, but that doesn’t mean the City should mandate long term rental and some people don’t want permanent tenants … perhaps reserving the space for college kids home in the summer, or visiting relatives. I don’t see that as a political perspective at all (except that some people are very heatedly AGAINST STR of ADUs.

  2. 4thepeople

    I too have a permit to rent a room in my house as a homestay (less than 30 days). I have off-street parking and all my immediate neighbors support my Airbnb listing–several of them have even rented from me for their friends and relatives who come visit for holidays, weddings, etc. And, 96% of the money I receive from rentals stays right here in Asheville, unlike hotels that send most profits out of WNC.

    Nuance in this discussion is important and Cecil gets it. He is FOR homestays (including ADUs), he is AGAINST whole house short term rentals, and he WANTS to reassess all short term rental rules for the entire city to make them fairer and easier to enforce, rather than the dysfunctional, piecemeal (can you say RAD) approach the establishment council members Wisler, Smith, Mayfield and Manheimer prefer.

    Let’s take back city council for the people of Asheville! Smith is not running again (he’s smart enough to know he cannot win after his 2016 Buncombe county commissioner primary election drubbing), vice mayor Wisler needs to be soundly defeated just as vice mayor Marc Hunt was in 2015, and we need to re-elect Cecil, and get two more advocates for the people, like Rich Lee and Vijay Kapoor.

    • SpareChange

      To suggest that there is this singular set of political interests that can be identified as “the people” is not only politically and intellectually dishonest, it is also an insult to the diversity of people and perspectives in the city of Asheville. No, what you really mean is, “Elect Cecil’s slate of lackeys.” If you are truly interested in representing “the people,” you would realize that the last thing the city needs is a council full of people in political lock step, and politically beholden to just one council member — least of all, when that council member is Cecil Bothwell.

      • 4thepeople

        Ha! Thanks for the Asheville civics lesson!

        Seriously SpareChange, I fully understand the diversity of people’s needs, but at a macro level we are confronted with a choice: establishment, special interest candidates (Goldstein, Bhakta, Wisler), or those candidates who are most concerned with listening to the people of Asheville (Bothwell, Lee, Kapoor). We have a great opportunity to get some new blood on council. Lee and Kapoor do their homework, are independent thinkers and will add substantially to the dialog on council, which will likely lead to better policy.

        I’m curious, SpareChange, you are quick to criticize and belittle, but you don’t offer your thoughts on what will improve Asheville government. Why is that?

        • Lulz

          Lee can’t even admit the city schools have their own maintenance facility. And by his explanation that the county does city schools maintenance, then why the need for two separate systems?

          • Lulz

            He and I had a back and forth discussion about who maintains the city schools. For some odd reason he assumes the county maintains the city schools even though the ACS has a maintenance facility on Westside Drive.

          • Rich Lee

            Fred is wrong. I showed him the county capital budget for school building and maintenance, which is available online. His sole data point is that there’s a maintenance building on Richmond Hill.

  3. SpareChange

    Headline: “Mini-Me endorses Dr. Evil. ”
    Now, there’s a surprise!

  4. luther blissett

    “Because the short-term rental market has gone underground, the city now spends $240,000 a year of taxpayer money on enforcement.”

    That “because” is carrying a lot of weight. There would be still be an enforcement regime if ADU rentals were permitted, yes? You’d need to track whole-unit rental listings and make sure that occupants aren’t “unexpectedly out of town” every time someone shows up for a homestay rental.

    This isn’t an easy nut to crack: every option comes with its own set of negative externalities. The fundamental problem remains the vesting of power over occupancy tax revenues with the BCTDA for narrow uses. But whenever I pass by the Old Kentucky Home downtown, I’m reminded that it was a family-owned boarding house.

  5. Gordon Smith

    Just wanted to offer some thoughts and corrections about the errors and distortions in Councilman Haynes’ letter:

    1) I never heard from a hotelier in opposition to STRs in Asheville. I have, however, heard from citizens who don’t want their neighborhoods overtaken by tourism party houses and citizens evicted from their homes to make room for tourists. The TDA has never taken a public position on this, and there is not a single member of City Council whose position has anything to do with hotels.

    2) No matter what the eventual regulations end up being, there will need to be an enforcement mechanism. That will incur a cost, so it is misleading to suggest that one policy or another ‘creates’ the enforcement costs. They will all have enforcement costs.

    3) Having served with Councilman Haynes for two years now, I am surprised to hear him miscast my position and the position of others on Council. I came to my position because I believe that housing ought to serve locals first rather than tourists first. Mr. Haynes himself came out against STRs on the commercial corridor of Haywood Rd. I am disappointed and surprised to see him offer a false frame regarding his colleagues’ positions on STRs. Given Councilman Bothwell’s track record of divisiveness, however, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised!

    4) It doesn’t make any sense to argue that Councilman Bothwell is against whole house STRs and also against fines for the illegal behavior. Supporting the policy but not supporting effective municipal response and enforcement of the policy is quite a feat of contortionism.

    • Lulz

      When you “socialist” raise taxes and it goes to obscene wages and perks for bureaucrats that cause FORCE PEOPLE TO SELL, you actually create a shield for the hotels to hide behind. Because on top of the pay these goons in government are getting, you’re also tasking THESE SAME PROPERTY OWNERS to PAY for the tourist industry. Even though they themselves CANNOT benefit from it.

      • luther blissett

        “I want to pay $100 in property taxes for my nice big house and I also want the sidewalk and road fixed outside.”

        I mean, this is your political agenda in a nutshell.

        • Lulz

          LOL, you know nothing of my position. The only thing you want is higher taxes and yet Wanda Greed just showed us all what the money is being used for. The sidewalk in front of my house has been missing a chunk of concrete for over 10 years now so who in the hell is repairing anything? Especially when the money is being funneled to the RAD or to line the pockets of the corrupt bureaucrats or public service workers. How about spending the money where it’s supposed to go and stop with the bogus fees. Look in the mirror because people like YOU are responsible for the Wanda Greeds of the world.

          • luther blissett

            “LOL, you know nothing of my position.”

            Maybe then you can spell it out? We’re left extrapolating it from your idiosyncratic preferences: higher taxes on people who are richer than you; fewer public services for people who are poorer than you or live in different parts of the city and county; lower taxes for you personally.

          • Lulz

            LOL what services? You want services well why is the county building a 50 million dollar building in downtown? Can’t that money go towards your services lulz? And we all know the services of such stars as Wanda Greed, her sister, and her son. Why that’s a family tradition there. But of course let’s all ignore that and just tax more. And if anyone questions it we all just misdirect and say they hate this person or that one. But in all reality it’s the ESTABLISHMENT goons that are keeping the services down.

            LOL who wants higher taxes? Where’s the money going now? My God we just get a real nice expose on how local government is a cash cow for many and you want them to get more money? Cookoo for cocoa puffs lulz.

          • luther blissett

            “You want services well why is the county building a 50 million dollar building in downtown?”

            A building that complies with federal rules on privacy for people who go to the HHS. 600 parking spaces.

            (Your arch-nemesis Brownie Newman voted against the expansion because he thought the parking provision was excessive.)


            Are you with the hoteliers and their lawyers who wanted Buncombe HHS moved out somewhere towards Swannanoa so that the tourists wouldn’t have to interact with locals, with that parcel sold on to a developer?

            Do you understand why people might believe you don’t want government to do anything except pave the roads and sidewalks you personally use?

    • luther blissett

      “The TDA has never taken a public position on this”

      The TDA prepared a presentation for its August board meeting that included a slide with the caption “AirBnB is a powerful force in Buncombe County, with significant implications for the hotel industry and for bed tax revenues”


      This presentation does not take a public position, but it is to some degree noting the flammability of that nice house you got there.

      • Lulz

        The don’t ever take public positions and yet we have STR bans. Of course STRs are a threat to them. And yet the question of STRs has never been brought up for a public vote. My guess is that council really is unsure of how it could go and thus afraid to put it up for a DEMOCRATIC test. I know of several ILLEGAL whole house STRs right now and have seen zilch issues with the renters. But I have seen long term rental houses trashed by the multiple tenants who have to group their money in order to pay for them. And as house prices continue to rise, those rental houses will turn into full time residences as the the people who buy them will not rent them out. And so the rental market is left with both fewer houses and run down rentals. Same outcome as with the current excuses used to ban STRs. Whereas STRs will have to keep the homes in top condition to market, long term rentals really don’t.

  6. SpareChange

    There is a reason Cecil Bothwell and Carl Mumpower are so often mentioned together in the same breath (even by themselves). In too many ways, they are opposite sides of the same coin — differing in positions on many issues, but similar in their divisive political styles, their desire for power and attention, and their political and ideological certitude.

    More than any specific positions Mr. Bothwell takes on policy, it is his temperament and approach to politics and governance, and his self-anointed crusader status, that has come to undermine the more important objectives he might otherwise be presumed to advocate.

    Sound governance requires that one demonstrate a capacity to transcend simple advocacy and be able to respect and listen to a range of points of view, even when (and maybe especially when) they are different from one’s own. I feel like Cecil has become less good at doing this over the years, and the issues he feels particularly strongly about are impossible to discuss with him. He represents himself as the voice of and for the locals, but that is not a single, unanimous voice. It is a multitude, even when coming from the same side of the political spectrum.

    As just one example, he has used the Haywood property issue in a very divisive and dishonest way – unfairly casting any and all who have even a modestly different view from him, or who for various reasons might like to see the parcel developed for mixed use, as blindly pro- big development. His continued use of this one issue as both a platform and a wedge has been especially troubling.

    He doesn’t just alienate political and ideological opposites, but seems to go out of his way to alienate colleagues on the council who should be allies, or who are at least people he should be trying to work with. He mounted a totally unnecessary election campaign against other solid moderate to liberal candidates by running a slate of candidates who would first and foremost be politically beholden to him. The litmus test being applied to candidates and and voters alike, both in the last election, and now, is simple. If one supports Bothwell, then you are by (his) definition, “of, by and for the people.” If you disagree with or oppose Bothwell, then you are (again, by his definition) “of, by and for the establishment” (whatever that is).

    Drawing on another example removed from his work on the council — Mr. Bothwell was an outspoken supporter of Bernie for President (great – I voted for Bernie in the primary too). He distrusted and disliked Hillary (fine, join the club). His support for Jill Stein, while perhaps naive, was in and of itself, also fine. But then his insulting tone taken with anyone who supported Clinton, his falling into line with those effectively chanting, “Lock Her Up!,” his on-again, off-again, on-again affiliation with the Democratic Party, and his tortured rationalization that the election of Trump would be the “best outcome for the Democratic Party,” was not fine, and demonstrated to me again that this is someone who would rather glory in his own self-righteousness than work with people for common ends.

    I do believe Mr. Bothwell is sincere in many of his assertions and positions, and therein lies at least part of the problem I have increasingly had with his service and behavior as a member of the council. This self-perception as “THE voice of the people,” seems to fuel an almost Don Quixote-like self-righteousness which shapes many of his actions and reactions to the real issues confronting Asheville. That, combined with a clear desire to lead (if not “control”) a majority 4-vote coalition on the council, has prompted me to conclude that progressive voters deserve and can do better than Mr. Bothwell.

    • Matt Christie

      Agree with SpareChange in the above. Just one point of clarification: one person on Bothwell’s “slate” last time wasn’t put there by choice, but rather against his will, and indeed loudly, clearly and publicly distanced himself more than several times. The use of a PAC was unfortunate and dishonorable to circumvent this candidate and his independence. That candidate was Rich Lee.

    • Jack Igelman

      I believe that Cecil is sincere and has often served the public well. However, I too have become uncomfortable with his style and temperament which has come across to me as being divisive and self-righteous. His campaign signs are an example: “My Voice on Council”. I find this slogan condescending.

    • luther blissett

      Said it before, but after eight years the “Bothwell role” on council may now need to be played by someone else.

      But I’m torn by this election. We see the power imbalance between elected officials and staff under the council-manager system, and we also see how lack of experience is a factor whenever the city gets played by private interests, and the only way to address that is to have people in office who know when they’re being played and know how to push back. There’s a good chance that after the votes are counted, the only person left with more than two years of direct experience of city government will be the mayor. Candidates who’ve served on appointed boards are largely treated with suspicion by the supporters of more activist candidates. And then there’s the prospect of a legal battle over Baby-daca Chuck Edwards’s redistricting bill.

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