Update on the Proposed Non Owner Occupied Short Term Rental Ordinance
A new City-wide ordinance has been proposed for the regulation of non-owner-occupied “ vacation” short term rentals (VSTRs)―Airbnb/VRBO-type accommodations. It will likely be voted on by the City Council in May and as proposed will have virtually no protections for neighborhoods and residents.
There are several types of short term rentals, and it’s important to understand the difference and why there is concern about non-owner-occupied STRs and the current proposal before the City Council:
- The first is traditional Bed and Breakfast and rentals where the owner lives onsite, such as a garage apartment or studio off the back of a house. These arrangements are covered by the existing ordinance and are unlikely to present an issue since the owner or manager lives there and has a vested interest in their property, the neighborhood and maintaining good relationships with the neighbors.
- VSTRs are, by contrast, typically investment only. The VSTR owner could live in Greensboro, but could be just as likely to live elsewhere. The property is only for income, meaning the owner reaps the benefits of a neighborhood without any accountability or sense of ownership of the community. This lack of a personal connection to residents and day-to-day accountability for the property has greater potential to negatively affect the quality of life in the neighborhood.
There are approximately 600 VSTRs currently operating in Greensboro without specific regulation. There is a need for this new ordinance and there is an opportunity for the City Council to change it to protect Greensboro homeowners, residents and the integrity of our local neighborhoods.
What might it look like if the proposed ordinance goes into effect? Imagine this quite realistic scenario: A house is rented on behalf of a group for a party. It’s packed with 25 people even though there are only three bedrooms. Half of them sleep there. Meanwhile 12 of the people have cars but only two fit in the driveway so the rest line the streets. The owner may not even be aware because they live in several states away. The required manager lives in the required, adjacent county but is 90 minutes away on the Virginia border. Even if this issue is reported to authorities, the owner is assessed an insignificant $50 fine. Between having no sense of community and a very low potential penalty for misuse of the property, how motivated are they to prevent this happening in the future? Additionally, there are two more VSTRs on your block, and they are having parties too because there is a big event at the Coliseum and neighborhoods near downtown are a great place to stay due to this convenient access.
Now this situation may be unlikely, however several of these activities have in fact occurred at VSTRs in Lindley Park. The main point is that under the language of the current proposed ordinance all of these things are possible and neighbors would have no recourse. In light of these concerns, a task force representing many neighborhoods around Greensboro has been working to raise awareness and to work with City Council members to ensure that the proposed regulations for non owner occupied Short Term Rentals will enhance our community and not allow the character of our neighborhoods to be eroded by absentee owners for financial gain.
In the view of this group, VSTRs should be allowed only in commercial/resort zones (as has been done very successfully in Asheville) and not in residentially zoned areas at all. There are many areas in Greensboro where this type of zoning could exist such as Downtown Greensboro, Spring Garden Street or Summit Avenue, where there are homes that could be used as VSTRs in alignment with existing zoning. It is the view of the task force that allowing VSTRs in residential areas in this way is de-facto rezoning from residential to commercial use without going through the rezoning process.
Acknowledging that keeping VTSR in designated commercial/ resort zones may not happen, the task force has also proposed ways this ordinance can be written with consideration of the integrity of neighborhoods and not―as is the case with the current draft―simply favoring the VSTR owners. While this group has had some productive conversations with several members of City Council who seem supportive of some requests such as increasing fines ($500 vs $50) and requiring a density cap (400 ft separation between STRs, vs unlimited ), there are still many concerns not as likely to be included in these changes to the proposed ordinance. These include requiring adequate off-street parking and limiting the number of people who can stay to two per bedroom.
For this reason, the group has engaged an attorney to advise us on proposed edits to this ordinance that will better protect the long-term residents and neighborhoods. We are seeking to raise $7,500, as this is the amount that Fisher Park has needed in the past when engaging in zoning issues. Several neighborhoods have already committed some funds toward the attorney fees. With Lindley Park very likely being impacted by unregulated growth in STRs, we hope to raise $1,500 to contribute towards this effort.
If you would like to donate to support this effort or any other future zoning concerns where Lindley Park may need extra help to address you can do this electronically at HERE. Please send a separate email to Blake Sagar at treasurer(at)lindleyparknc.com to let us know that your donation is for this use.
And of course, please make your concerns known to City Council members. You can write to them here: https://www.greensboro-nc.gov/government/city-council/e-mail-city-council#Council
If you have questions about this issue and why establishing stricter regulation on this new ordinance is so important, please contact Joyce Eury, Lindley Park’s representative on the neighborhood task force at vicechair(at)lindleyparknc.com.
In the meantime, here is the link to a website the about the issue: https://neighborsnotairbnbs.org