Chattanooga council seeks legal advice after Nashville vacation rental rules found unconstitutional

Chattanooga council seeks legal advice after Nashville vacation rental rules found unconstitutional

October 25th, 2016 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Chattanooga City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga City Attorney Wade Hinton

Chattanooga City Attorney Wade Hinton

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The City Council wants to know how a ruling against a Metro Nashville short-term rental ordinance could affect Chattanooga's own proposed rules.

On Friday, a judge ruled against Nashville's regulations, declaring them vague and, therefore, unconstitutional. A written order finalizing the ruling has not been issued yet.

The Chattanooga City Council is expected to vote tonight on new short-term vacation rental rules. The body has held two public hearings, deferred scheduled votes and called for modifications to proposed short-term vacation rental regulations over the last two months.

The proposed legislation calls for enacting a certification process for approving the use of residential property for short-stay room rentals. Currently, any property owner who wishes to rent any of their rooms for short-term stays must have their property designated as R3 or R4 zones, which also allow apartment and office usage.

Under current Chattanooga ordinances, anyone who operates a short-term vacation rental in a property zoned R1 or R2 — typical designations for single-family residences or duplexes, respectively — is breaking the law.

On Monday, Councilman Yusuf Hakeem, who is chairman of the council's Planning and Zoning Committee, said the council will seek legal counsel before making any decisions. However, he also cited the need to move forward on the legislation.

"We need to get something on the books for the city's residents," Hakeem said, indicating the possibility of tweaking them if necessary in the future.

Conservative think tank Beacon Center of Tennessee, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of a couple operating a short-term stay operation in August 2015, argued the Metro Nashville regulations poorly defined the differences between homes offering short-term stay services, boarding houses and hotels.

Hakeem said he believed the Chattanooga legislation drew strength from its details.

"We're reviewing the decision and certainly hope to have more information to share with the members of the City Council," city attorney Wade Hinton said Monday.

Councilman Russell Gilbert has voiced concerns the new rules would "open the door" for short-term vacation rental operations in neighborhoods where they are not wanted.

Representatives of the North Brainerd and Bal Harbor neighborhood associations have voiced concerns during public hearings.

Hinton has told the council the city will use a web-based tool to monitor and compare properties advertised on internet-based short-stay rental sites, such as Airbnb, with the city's certification registry. Violation notices will be issued to offenders, he said.

Penalties will range from $25 to $50 per violation per day.

The most recent suite of revisions to the legislation have reduced the amount of time current short-term stay operators have to get in line with the new rules.

Instead of allowing them six months to get their certifications in order, the new rules give short-term rental operators 60 days to apply for certification, unless a complaint has been filed again them. If a complaint has been filed, the operator only has 15 days to apply.

The new rules also call for some measure of grandfathering for short-term stay operations on R3 or R4 properties. Those properties must still obtain a certificate number but do not have to undergo all requirements of the application process.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.


Loading...