CONYERS — Rockdale County is planning to unveil a new ordinance dealing with short-term vacation rental properties. But incidents of violence, noise, damage to property, and traffic congestion at Airbnb and other STVR locations in Rockdale County have residents renewing a call for the county to put tighter restrictions or a ban on the short-term rental properties.
Citizens packed the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning, with 13 offering comments on the issue. Chairman Oz Nesbitt Sr. was absent, and prior to the public comments, Vice Chair Doreen Williams asked Planning Director Kc Krzic for an update on a new STVR ordinance the county is developing.
“The Planning Department has drafted an ordinance to address what we are referring to as Airbnb’s,” Krzic said. “We have designations that will refer to them as limited lodging and vacation rentals. Currently we are circulating the document through all of the internal departments and outside agencies such as the Sheriff’s Office and the Board of Health.
“As of right now, we are expecting to begin the process with the BOC in September to move forward through that public hearing process that would continue on approximately three months. This is still a process that would require zoning public hearings.
“On Thursday, Oct. 17, we will present (the ordinance) at the Rockdale Coalition of Homeowners and Civic Associations. We will be presenting all of the aspects, explaining what would be required, any permitting and inspection processes, so anyone would be able to understand and provide any final feedback.”
The first citizen to speak about STVRs actually rents a portion of her house as an Airbnb property. Donna Byer said she has been an Airbnb host since 2016 and rents an apartment over a detached garage on her property. She said the rental fees have helped them pay her mother’s mortgage. She said they have a strict policy of no parties for the benefit of themselves and their neighbors.
“I ask that as you consider whatever you’re going to do that you don’t cast a wide net,” she said. “That you take into consideration those who are handling this seriously and considering their neighbors.”
Byer did go on to suggest that the county implement strict fines of $1,000 per incident for those who violate the ordinance, stating that eventually it will be uncomfortable for them to continue.
Mary Greco said the county is facing a challenge in planning for the benefit of every citizen. She added that studies have shown that having no restrictions on STVRs is negatively affecting the housing market, and when STVRs operate without paying hotel/motel taxes, they don’t benefit anyone but themselves.
“STVRs can break laws with impunity unless you are willing to take that responsibility in setting those guidelines,” she said. “We ask that you be really thoughtful in moving forward in this process … We want to remember that the residents here have a stake in the community.”
Karl Blaschle said the county is having a problem with party houses at STVRs in the community. He said the county does not need to completely shut out STVRs, but they do need to set standards.
John Bickford said many of the STVRs are houses owned by absentee landlords and that short-term rentals should be handled by hotels and motels. He encouraged the county not to take actions that could lessen restrictions already in ordinances.
Midge Johnson said she is opposed to STVRs and supported a ban. She added the county does not need to draft ordinances that can’t be upheld without spending a lot of money to enforce them.
Commissioner Williams stated the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on a case in Morgan County in reference to STVRs and said that a ban cannot affect STVRs that are already open and operating before the ban.
But Cheryl Garcia stated that STVRs now fall under an ordinance the county already has in place regarding bed and breakfast rentals and is violating that ordinance.
Don Meyer added that STVRs cannot be grandfathered in if they are already violating a county ordinance.
Brian Jenkins said many of the STVR owners do not live in the county and are not paying business taxes on their rentals, causing the county to lose needed tax revenue. He stated his opposition to STVRs.
George Kelechek said the county has been working on an ordinance for 365 days while there have been shootings and violence at STVRs and that the commissioners are failing to uphold their oaths of office to protect citizens by not banning STVRs.
Others who spoke and requested a ban on STVRs included Lee Wright, Eleanor Davis, Garvin Haynes and Beverly Gaines.