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Staff photo by Tim Barber City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem

The City Council may set new short-term vacation rental rules before the end of September.

To that end, the body has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for Aug. 30.

Council members have expressed concerns over the issue in light of internet-based rental sites that allow local residents to rent space to travelers within their own homes. As of February, websites like Airbnb, Vacation Rental by Owner and Flipkey listed nearly 400 Chattanooga area properties.

On Tuesday, Councilman Yusuf Hakeem, who chairs the council's Planning Committee, addressed the matter during a strategic planning session with his colleagues.

"I expressed to the Planning Commission yesterday, this is not just one area of town, this is all over the place," Hakeem said. "This is something we want to move forward on."

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Key elements of new regulations governing short-term vacation rentals include whether to require hotel/motel taxes and a safety factor, he said.

"Some citizens call in, they know people are coming in and out of their neighborhoods, and I guess with everything else going on in the world, it really concerns them," Hakeem said. "We're going to make it transparent as to who's doing it and the impact it has on the communities and things of that nature."

City Attorney Wade Hinton indicated that the solution will likely involve a certification process.

Other matters that may come under consideration include bed & breakfasts and grandfathering existing properties which currently operate short-term vacation rentals, said John Bridger, executive director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.

Hakeem proposed a tentative date of Sept. 13 for voting on any proposed measures concerning short-term rentals.

In other business, Councilman Russell Gilbert said he wants a "concrete definition" concerning zoning for tiny homes, which vary in size from a few hundred square feet to over 1,000 square feet, depending on designs and builders.

"I think a lot constituents have concerns — big concerns — about value of their homes going down," Gilbert said.

Under current regulations, a tiny home mounted on a chassis requires zoning associated with mobile homes, Bridger said. Tiny homes anchored to a foundation make for a different situation.

Bridget said RPA will conduct a study concerning tiny home zoning in about six months. Solutions will likely take the form of a special permit or a new zoning code specific to tiny homes, he said.

In the meantime, Bridger offered to review current zoning impacts on tiny homes on Sept. 6.

"I think this is where some good, factual information and a write-up will be helpful to having an informed conversation," he said.

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

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