The Franklin County Board of Supervisors is moving forward with more potential changes to short-term rental rules in the county following a split vote at its June 16 meeting.
In a 4-to-3 vote, supervisors moved to send two new rules to the Franklin County Planning Commission to discuss and bring a recommendation back to the board. The rules include a minimum lot size of 1 acre for short-term rentals and a minimum 200-foot setback distance from the property line.
While a majority of supervisors were in favor of considering the new rules, some were concerned that any new restrictions were taking rights away from property owners. Boone District representative Ronnie Thompson was one of the more outspoken supervisors against the new rules.
“I don’t like restricting people’s property rights,” he said.
Thompson also pushed back against a proposal to require all short-term rentals obtain a special-use permit. To obtain the permit, a short-term rental owner would be required to get approval from supervisors and participate in a public hearing.
Currently, only short-term rentals on properties zoned A1 require a special-use permit. 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.
Gills Creek District representative Lorie Smith pushed for a special-use permit to be one of the new regulations for short-term rentals. She said neighbors near any short-term rental should have the right to voice their concerns at a public hearing.
“I think that the citizens that are living around short-term rentals have the right to that due diligence that occurs around a special-use permit,” Smith said.
Union Hall District representative Tommy Cundiff and Snow Creek District representative and board chairman Leland Mitchell both said supervisors should wait and see how Host Compliance handles overseeing short-term rentals in the county. The third-party vendor was approved by supervisors last month on a one-year, trial basis.
Rocky Mount District representative Mike Carter also warned that putting too many restrictions on short-term rentals could hurt a business that has the potential to bring revenue to the county. Short-term rentals pay a 5% transient occupancy tax to the county, and renters also shop and eat at local businesses, he said.
“Short-term rentals at the lake could open up a lot more business, small businesses, restaurants and that sort of thing,” Carter said. “So you have to think about that, too.”
Smith said a large percentage of the county’s short-term rentals are located in the Gills Creek District, and many of her constituents have asked for greater restrictions. She also pointed out that the district brings in more than 60% of the revenue for the county.
“I just want you to keep in mind their opinions matter,” Smith said.
When it came to a vote, supervisors chose to only ask the planning commission to consider the minimum lot size and setback regulations for short-term rentals, which narrowly passed 4 to 3. The planning commission is expected to discuss the proposed changes at its July meeting.
Supervisors also narrowly approved a special-use permit request by Boyd Temple for a short-term rental just off Scruggs Road in Moneta. The decision was postponed last month following a public hearing when supervisors tied in a vote to deny the special-use permit due to Thompson being absent.
Thompson was the deciding vote in approving the special-use permit June 16.
Smith, who voted in opposition, said the request for a special-use permit for the short-term rental didn’t fit the land use of the area. While the property is zoned A1 and allows short-term rentals with a special-use permit, the surrounding properties are zoned residential and short-term rentals are not allowed.
Supervisors unanimously approved a request by John Mathena to amend multiple conditions made by the board when they granted a special-use permit for a campground off Old Salem School Road in Union Hall. The permit was originally granted to Mathena in January, 2019.
The request was delayed last month when Cundiff asked for more time to look into the request before making a decision.
The changes approved by supervisors will allow Mathena to plant only a single row of 4-foot green, giant arborvitae trees in some areas around the property as a buffer. A double row of 6-foot green, giant arborvitae trees will still be required around the entrance facing Old Salem School Road. A fence at one of the property lines will also be substituted from a split-rail fence to a wire fence.
Cundiff said Mathena is expected to have everything in place before opening the business within the next two years.