The Franklin County Board of Supervisors moved forward with significant changes in how the county regulates short-term rentals at its March 17 meeting.
Supervisors agreed with several steps that were first approved by the Franklin County Planning Commission on March 10. Those steps include a registry for every short-term rental in the county, increased fines, improved safety requirements and the use of a third-party consultant to oversee short-term rentals.
Short-term rental homes would have to pay an annual $200 registration fee, have a smoke detector in each room, a fire extinguisher and a posted evacuation plan. Members of Franklin County Public Safety or a fire department would be required to inspect the home annually.
Any short-term rental that does not register would face a $500 fine. Any home that does not comply with the proposed requirements could face a $200 fine for each violation for a maximum of $5,000. Civil penalties are currently limited in the county code to $100 per violation for a maximum of $3,000.
Supervisors agreed to move forward with Host Compliance as the overseer of Franklin County’s short-term rentals. Steve Sandy, Franklin County director of planning and community development, said the company would monitor websites for active short-term rentals in the county, assure the homes are complying with regulations, monitor activity and provide tax collection and a 24-hour hotline for people to call with concerns.
Sandy said the $200 annual registration fee for each short-term rental would pay the cost to the county for using Host Compliance. The fee would also pay for an annual inspection from the public safety department.
Blackwater District representative Ronald Mitchell asked that the county tightly regulate the number of people who are allowed to stay at a short-term rental. He said each bedroom listed at a short-term rental should have two points of egress in case of a fire.
“I just don’t want people vacationing in our county, and it turns into a tragedy,” Mitchell said.
Gills Creek District representative Lorie Smith agreed with the proposed regulations, but asked if more steps could be taken to further regulate short-term rentals. She asked that all short-term rentals require a special-use permit to operate.
Current, special-use permits for short-term rentals are only required for property zoned A1. Short-term rentals are allowed by right for properties zoned PCD and RPD. Short-term rentals are banned in all other zoned areas of the county.
Smith said requiring a special-use permit would provide neighbors with “due process” in deciding if they want to allow a short-term rental in the neighborhood. “I think it is only fair,” she said.
Rocky Mount District representative Mike Carter disagreed. He said the change would put unnecessary regulations on a property owner.
“We don’t want to get into a situation where we are telling people what they can and can’t do on their property,” Carter said.
While nothing was voted on, supervisors agreed to allow staff to continue moving forward with the plans presented by Sandy and would discuss further regulations like special-use permits for all short-term rentals at a later date.
Sandy said a public hearing on the proposed changes would likely be held in the coming months.