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Planning commission postpones decision on new short-term rental rules

Planning commission postpones decision on new short-term rental rules

The Franklin County Planning Commission decided to postpone a decision on proposed new regulations for short-term rentals during its July 14 meeting. While stopping short of endorsing changes, several members did provide input on the issue.

Last month, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors, in a 4 to 3 vote, moved to send two new rule proposals for short-term rentals to the commission for further study. The rules included the possible creation of a minimum lot size and a minimum setback distance for short-term rental properties.

Multiple commission members suggested waiting a year to see how Host Compliance handles monitoring short-term rentals in the county. The company was hired by the county in March to handle finding short-term rentals in the county, making sure they register, monitoring the rentals and making sure they comply with county rules.

The annual cost to use Host Compliance is estimated at $26,000, which will be paid for through a $200 annual fee on short-term rentals in the county.

Steve Sandy, Franklin County director of planning and community development, said the county is “80 to 85% complete” in setting up a website for short-term rental owners to register. “Hopefully by the end of the month we will have that complete,” he said.

Once the website is in place, Sandy said short-term rental owners will be able to register their property by computer or phone.

The county will also contact short-term rental owners who have not registered with the help of Host Compliance monitoring websites such as AirBnB that advertise short-term rentals.

“I really think we should give them a year to get their ducks in a row,” said Deborah Crawford, Union Hall District representative.

Crawford also said she was hesitant to create minimum lot size and setback rules that would limit who would be able to have short-term rentals. “I just don’t think we should take away people’s rights from them,” she said.

Snow Creek District representative Sherrie Mitchell and Blue Ridge District representative C.W. Doss both agreed to wait a year to make a decision. Even with the agreement, commission members decided to wait until next month to make any decision to allow new member David Pendleton, who represents the Blackwater District, to give his opinion.

Pendleton was absent at the July 14 meeting. He replaced longtime Blackwater District representative Earl Webb.

The planning commission also approved a special-use permit application from George Vogel III to allow for a boat storage yard on Morewood Road in Hardy. The boat storage yard is for the property owners in the Westlake Pointe community.

Sandy said the property has been used for boat storage for more than a decade without a special-use permit before the county received a complaint and looked into the issue. The Westlake Pointe community then applied for the permit.

The planning commission approved the permit request 6 to 0 with one absent on the condition that the community erect a fence along Morewood Road and plant vegetation in some areas to block the view to the storage yard.

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