Eastdale community members are asking the Chattanooga City Council to allow short-term vacation rentals in their neighborhood.
At a Monday evening community meeting hosted by District 9 Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod, 30 Eastdale residents came out to discuss the matter of expanding the current short-term vacation rentals district overlay map, which restricts where in the city such rentals are allowed, to include the Eastdale, Menlo and Biltmore areas.
"I've been asked by a couple of folks to look into expanding the map but I never want to make a decision like this for the community without talking to the community," Coonrod said, adding that she had gotten many emails before the meeting in favor of expanding the map. "I personally support [the short-term rentals], but this needs to be about what y'all think."
After a presentation from District 1 Councilman Chip Henderson, who helped write the regulatory ordinance on short-term vacation rentals, Coonrod and Henderson fielded community questions, most of which revolved around the permitting and taxing process for rental hosts, rather than the impact of the rentals on the neighborhood.
One resident, Hannah Hardy, was renting her Eastdale home on Airbnb for several months until she was asked to stop by the city because she is outside of the district.
"I started in September and rented to 175 people. I made good money and had residents from all over and it was a true blessing that my neighbors had no problem with," she said to the crowd, getting verbal agreement from a neighbor in the audience. "I'm looking to retire in a year and a half and would like that extra income. It's unfair because if it's it good for one side of town, it's good for us, too."
In the end 22 community members voted to be included in the rental district, two voted against and six said they were undecided.
While the majority were in support of the rentals, some neighbors were concerned about noise and maintenance.
"I wouldn't do that much work for that little money, and who knows who will," Ann Pierre, a community member who voted against the short-term vacation rentals, said of properly running a rental. "If I wanted to live next to a motel, I would have bought a home next to a motel."
According to Henderson, it will likely take until early August to get the map changed, if it passes both council votes, and then it would be two weeks later before it would take effect. Then it would be late August before affected residents were able to open short-term rentals.
In the meantime, Henderson encouraged those interested in hosting to get a checklist of permit criteria from the city's Land Development Office.
Other resources including the city ordinance on short-term vacation rentals are available at chattanooga.gov/economic-community-development/land-development-office/short-term-vacation.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.