New STRs in R1 are prohibited; those in existence are grandfathered
Highlands has been waiting with bated breath for the Town Board to make its decision regarding the continuation of Short-term Rentals in town.
There is a closed session at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 19, prior to the regular Town Board meeting, which is at 7 p.m. to confer with attorneys Chad Essick and Bob Hagemann of Poyner Spruill who the town hired to finalize changes to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) as it applies to Short-term Rentals (STR).
According to Town Manager Josh Ward, though the attorneys have been meeting with the STR committee made up of Commissioners Amy Patterson, Brian Stiehler and staff, not all the commissioners have been as intimately involved.
“This will give them a chance to meet the attorneys and for them to go over the proposed changes and to explain the legal ramifications,” he said. “Nothing in the proposed amended ordinance that was sent out in the agenda packet is expected to change much, if at all, in open session.”
The proposed amended UDO verbiage about STRs in Highlands’ various zoning districts includes definitions and allowances.
For starters it sets the stage by saying “Short-term rentals are hereby recognized as an independent use category within the planning jurisdiction of the Town of Highlands. These standards are intended to maintain the character of residential neighborhoods and the quiet enjoyment of all residents’ homes.”
In additions it states: “Section 6.5 Commercial Uses is hereby amended to add a new subsection 6.5.18 for ShortTerm Rental use.”
Basically, as of May 19, 2022, STRs are permitted in all zones except R1, B4 and G1 as “L” limited, meaning homeowners must comply with filing stipulations if they want to rent their homes as STRs.
It then outlines the steps homeowners have to take to either continue renting their property as a STR, what they have to do to start renting their property as an STR and what those in the R1 district who have been renting their homes as STRs have to do to continue as a “grandfathered” use.
In all cases, the issuance of a Zoning Compliance Permit and a Short-Term Rental Zoning Compliance Permit by the Planning & Development Director is required.
New STRs in R1 are not allowed so those homeowners who have been renting their homes as STRs need to go a step further if they want to continue by getting a Non-Conforming Use Permit from the Planning & Development Director.
The Short-Term Rental Zoning Compliance Permit includes the address of the property; name and contact information of the owner of the property; name and contact information of the operator or manager if other than the owner; the number of bedrooms on the property intended to be used for occupancy; a copy of the Macon or Jackson County Tax Department property information card for the subject property; copy of the Macon or Jackson County Occupancy Tax Registration Form for the subject property; either (a) an improvement permit issued by Macon County Environmental Health Services or the Jackson County Department of Public Health; (b) certificate issued within the preceding 60 days from a qualified licensed sanitarian professional that the septic system serving the property is safe and adequate for the number of bedrooms reported in subsection 4; or (c) if the property is served by a public wastewater system, a written statement from a licensed plumber that the connection to the system is operational and free of etectable leaks; a copy of the standard short-term rental agreement for the property; an acknowledgment that the applicant is aware of the occupancy restrictions on the use of the property as a shortterm rental and the applicant’s agreement to abide thereby; and a statement by the operator that the information in the application is correct.
If the amendments to the UDO are accepted Thursday night, as of May 19, 2022, new STRs will not be allowed in the R1 zone but the “grandfathering” of STRs in that zone will be allowed through the issuance of a “non-conforming use permit.”
It’s those owners who have to jump through the most hoops. Since current STRs in R1 would be considered a non-conforming use, those homeowners would also need a NonConforming Use Permit submitted to the Planning & Development Director no later than September 1, 2022, or within 90 days of the use becoming nonconforming (which would be as of May 19).
In addition, no later than December 31 of each calendar year, the owner of a nonconforming STR has to submit a report demonstrating that the nonconforming use has not been discontinued and otherwise meets the nonconforming use standards; if a property owner fails to provide an annual report by December 31 in three or more years or the annual report reveals that the property owner has failed to comply with the nonconforming use standards the property owner’s Non-Conforming Use Permit shall be revoked and the nonconforming use shall cease.
To get the Non-Conforming Use Permit, all owners seeking to establish nonconforming status for a short-term rental in R1 must provide sufficient proof, including but not limited to occupancy tax records, rental contracts, and affidavits, to show that the property was operated or used as a short-term rental prior to May 19, 2022; evidence demonstrating the total number of days per calendar year that the property was used for short-term rentals for each of the last five calendar years.
Once it is determined that a nonconforming short-term rental was established prior to May 19, 2022, a determination shall be made regarding the level of intensity of the short-term rental at the time the use was rendered nonconforming.
To determine the nonconforming short-term rental’s level of intensity at the time the use was rendered nonconforming, the applicant may choose: (1) the most number of days in one of the previous five calendar years that the property was used for short-term rentals; or (2) the number of days in the 365 days that the property was used for short-term rentals prior to becoming nonconforming. Note: in the event an applicant is unable to provide evidence concerning the short-term rental history or that the level of intensity is less than 30 days, the property shall not be used as a short-term rental for more than 30 days per calendar year. In addition, a nonconforming short-term rental use may not be changed, enlarged, expanded, or intensified, including the rental of the short-term rental for more days than the prior intensity level established and documented in the Nonconforming Use Permit.
Rules for all owners of STRs whether in existence and in compliance, in existence and allowed as non-conforming or a new STR must abide by the following or be penalized: Short-term rental overnight occupancy shall not exceed two persons per bedroom plus two additional persons. Provided, however, the number of bedrooms permitted for a short-term rental shall not exceed the number of bedrooms approved for the dwelling in an improvement permit issued for the property.
For properties served by a public wastewater system, overnight occupancy shall not exceed the lesser two persons per bedroom plus two additional persons; or 12 persons.
In residential zoning districts the total number of overnight occupants who are not related by the fifth degree of consanguinity, blood, marriage, or adoption shall not exceed three. This provision shall not apply to children in foster care.
In residential zoning districts, shortterm rentals shall not be used for special events or gatherings in excess of the overnight occupancy limit; occupants or guests of short-term rentals shall not park vehicles on the property other than within parking area(s) designated on the application for the Short-Term Rental Zoning Compliance Permit.
Vehicles parked in public right-of-way so as to violate the town’s street or parking ordinances are subject to towing at the vehicle owner’s expense.
Household trash shall be bagged and disposed of in town-approved trash receptacles; occupants of short-term rentals shall at all times comply with the town’s Nuisance Ordinance, Noise Ordinance, and its General Code of Ordinances.
The owner or operator shall maintain general liability insurance on the property, which covers the short-term rental use and guests; the owner or operator, or an agent of the owner or operator, shall be fully responsive at any time that the property is used as a short-term rental to take and resolve complaints regarding operation of the short-term rental and its occupants and guests.
The name and phone number of the owner, operator or an agent of the owner operator shall be conspicuously displayed inside near the main entrance of the short-term rental; there shall be no more than one short-term rental contract governing a property during the same period of time the short-term rental is rented.
Every contract for a short-term rental shall contain an addendum, in a form provided by the town, setting forth the requirements and the operator shall obtain a signed acknowledgment from the renter(s) that they have received such addendum prior to delivering possession of the dwelling unit; exterior signage is allowed, and temporary signs are allowed without a permit.
Failure to comply with the standards and regulations can result in remedies and penalties. If three violations are committed by the owner or operator within a 12-month period, the Short-Term Rental Zoning Compliance Permit may be revoked by the Planning and Development Director for a period of one year.
Minor changes to the UDO include verbiage changes like Zoning Certificate to Zoning Compliance Permit and additions to and changes to residential unit definitions as follows:
Building, Multi-Family: Any building, other than a motel, hotel, or tourist home, homestay or short-term rental containing more than one dwelling unit. This term includes single-family attached dwellings, duplexes, and apartments.
Duplex: A building containing two dwelling units located on the same lot or parcel.
Dwelling, Multi-Family: A dwelling unit designed, intended or used by more than one family. Homestay: The rental of no more than two bedrooms within a portion of residential dwelling unit, for compensation, for a period of less than 30 consecutive days where the owner, operator or manager also stays on the same parcel during any period of guest occupancy. This term does not include hotels, motels, or tourist homes, or short-term rentals.
Lodging: The use of a building, or any portion thereof, for someone to live or stay temporarily, often for periods of less than 30 consecutive days in return for the payment of compensation. Lodging includes a hotel, motel, tourist home, homestay and short-term rental.
Multi-Family Residential Use: The use of a lot or parcel for human habitation by more than one family for periods that are not temporary guest occupancy within a multi-family building or a multi-family dwelling unit. This term does not include lodging uses such as hotel, motel, tourist home, homestay or short-term rental.
Single-Family Residential Use: The use of a single-family dwelling until by a single family for human habitation for periods that are not temporary guest occupancy. This term does not include lodging uses such as hotel, motel, tourist home, homestay or short-term rental.
Short-term rental: The rental of a residential dwelling unit, for compensation, for a period of less than 30 consecutive days. This term does not include homestays, hotels, motels, or tourist homes.
Temporary Guest Occupancy: The use of a dwelling unit in return for compensation where the occupancy of the structure by the paying guest or guests is for a period of less than 30 days.
Tourist home: A building or part thereof, not including a motel, hotel, homestay or short-term rental, where sleeping accommodations or lodging of not more than four bedrooms are provided to guests paying compensation, where the owner, operator or manager also stays on the same parcel during any period of guest occupancy. This term includes bed and breakfast homes, inns, or rooming or boarding houses. The final word on STRs will be heard at Thursday’s Town Board meeting.
By Kim Lewicki, Highlands Newspaper