CONYERS — The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners got an earful from residents Tuesday night concerning the county having no policies regarding short term vacation rentals. Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. told those present the BOC heard their cries and will be having a “real conversation” on the issue soon.
Renting their homes for short term vacations have become a way for homeowners to make money. A check of several rental sites on Google, including Airbnb, Inc., found over 300 home listings in the Conyers area, ranging in rates from $30 a night for one guest, to $771 a night for a six-bedroom home.
Short term vacation rentals came to the attention of many residents in Conyers last month when there was a shooting incident at a home being rented through Airbnb, Inc. in the Martha’s Vineyard subdivision off Ga. Highway 20. No one was injured, but five people, all from out of town and staying at the home, were arrested following the incident for weapon and drug violations and warrants from other states.
Home Owners For Better Government, a citizen advocacy group in Conyers, have been pushing for regulations on short term vacation rentals. At the BOC meeting held at Honey Creek Elementary School, more than 50 members of HOFBG turned out to show their support for 8 speakers who asked the county to either place a moratorium or complete ban on the rentals until an ordinance can be developed to manage them.
George Kelechek said in researching the issue, he found more than 2,700 cities and counties nationwide that have 50 or more short term vacation rentals properties, and a growing number of governments are instituting policies to deal with the rentals.
Brian Jenkins said he found that the owner of the Airbnb rental in Martha’s Vineyard where the shooting incident took place has 12 corporations that own more than 200 homes in Rockdale County, and is operating them as businesses, yet receiving the homestead tax exemption. He suggested the tax breaks for residences being used as vacation rentals should be removed.
Chip Hatcher, a resident of the the Lake Capri subdivision, said he has similar concerns about short term rental properties. He said his subdivision has had problems with people coming in and buying single family homes, then remodeling them to add multiple bedrooms just so they can turn them into vacation rentals.
Don Meyer noted that Putnam County has a business model where vacation rental owners pay a fee and inspectors go and inspect the properties, but the fees don’t pay for all the time and money Putnam spends on law enforcement and other agencies responding to incidents at the rentals. He urged the county to enact the moratorium or ban until a better business model is developed.
June Reese said there are vacations rentals in her neighborhood that cause problems every weekend with loud parties, a multi-passenger bus that takes people in and out, trash left in the area, and other issues.
Nesbitt said in response to the residents that the BOC shares their concerns and will be working to swiftly resolve the issue.
“We’ve heard about these Airbnb rentals going on all over the county, and I can tell you all three of us as commissioners share the same sentiments as you all do,” Nesbitt said. “It was a tragic situation that took place in Martha’s Vineyard… What I’m hearing tonight is a cry to this board and we will be stepping up our efforts to do what we need to do to come across with a decision that will certainly protect Rockdale County from this type of activity.”