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Lookout Mountain, Ga., Mayor David Bennett talks about his town in March.

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Lookout Mountain, Ga., arguing that the plaintiff failed to bring his short-term vacation rental fight to the proper arena.

Sam Silvey sued the city in February, saying he has the right to keep renting out his home, located at 1609-1/2 Fairy Dell Trail. He said he should be allowed to continue to hawk his property because he began renting it out before the city passed a more restrictive ordinance in fall 2017. The city, however, argued that residents were never allowed to rent out their homes for weekends on websites like Airbnb.

On Dec. 1, Lookout Mountain Mayor David Bennett told Silvey he could no longer rent out his home while he was not there. If he did, he would receive a citation, with a fine of up to $500 or a sentence of up to 90 days in jail. Silvey sued in federal court. But on April 30, U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy ruled against Silvey. Murphy said Silvey should have taken his case to the city's zoning board or Walker County Superior Court.

"Even if Defendant Bennett's letter was a final decision on behalf of Defendant City," Murphy wrote, "Plaintiff was required to appeal that decision to the Superior Court of Walker County, Georgia, within thirty days, which he failed to do."

The judge added: "Plaintiff has failed to establish that his claims are ripe, and he has not met his burden to show that this Court has jurisdiction over his claims."

Silvey's attorney, Wilson DuBose, told the Times Free Press they plan to continue to fight the city's ordinance. He will file a motion with the U.S. District Court, asking Murphy to reconsider his ruling. If Murphy does not reconsider, they will take the case to the zoning board.

Because the city council changed its short-term vacation rental ordinance in the fall, DuBose argued, Silvey should be grandfathered in.

"The City's prohibition of short-term rentals in the zoning district in which Mr. Silvey's property is located does not prevent him from continuing to rent on a short-term basis," DuBose said in an email.

Silvey bought the home for $100,000 in 2012, according to the Walker County Tax Assessor's website. In his lawsuit, he stated he began renting out the property in 2014. While homeowners in some short-term vacation rental arrangements stay on the property and offer a room or two to paying visitors, Silvey offered the entire house.

He said city officials began contacting him in 2016, telling him he was not allowed to rent out his whole property. The city council revisited the issue last fall. In October, it enacted a new ordinance, telling homeowners they could not rent out their entire property. The council allows people to rent rooms in their house, so long as they're still on the property.

On Dec. 1, Bennett sent Silvey a letter. He told him that the council members noticed he was still advertising the property for rent online.

"[The] City is unwilling to allow your violation of our Zoning Ordinance to continue," Bennett wrote. "This letter is a formal notification that the operation of your vacation rental must cease as of January 1, 2018."

He told Silvey that, should he continue to rent out the property, he would be cited by police.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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