Decision on controversial vacation rental permit postponed

Published 9:03 am Thursday, August 3, 2023

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The decision on a pair of short-term vacation rental permits in the Indian Bend Trail community was postponed after public hearings where several community members voiced opposition.

The Troup County Commission held public hearings on requests by Alfonso and Margarita Garcia and Patria Ybanez and Seng Hall for special use permits to allow properties at 297 and 277 Indian Bend Trail, respectively, to be used for short-term vacation rentals.

Both applications were recommended for denial by the Board of Zoning Appeals, however, county staff recommended approval if maximum occupancy, parking and noise conditions are followed.

County Planner Ruth West noted the staff recommendation came prior to the Zoning Board meeting where several residents spoke against the application.

Attorney Lonnie Haralson spoke on behalf of the applicants. He said the adjacent property owner has already been approved for the special use permit and has a business license to operate a short-term vacation rental.

Haralson argued that the applicants are willing to follow any conditions that the commissioners set and they shouldn’t be punished for what the nearby residents think might happen. He said if the conditions set by the commissioners aren’t followed, then the business license could be revoked.

“There’s a lot of speculation on what could happen, but that’s where the county has the right to pull the business permit and say, ‘Hey, you violated the standards of the business license, so in effect, you might have the right to do the special use, but you don’t have the right to operate the business anymore,’” Haralson said.

Haralson said the applicants plan to use the platform Airbnb for the rentals, which he said already have safeguards.

“If an owner of a property that you rented reports that you as a tenant violated any condition, Airbnb has the right to ban you nationwide or worldwide,” Haralson said.

“I don’t think this [should be] an issue of ‘let’s decide to deny this based on speculation and things that might happen.’ This has never been an Airbnb. You can’t say that it’s going to happen,” Haralson argued.

Haralson noted that one of the complaints is that the conditions would allow up to eight cars parked at the location. Due to the number of bedrooms, the location only allows for eight occupants, so unless everyone drives on their own, it would usually be fewer than eight cars, he said.

Greg Hart, who lives on Indian Bend Trail, spoke against the approval. Hart said his biggest issue is the increased traffic that would come from the rentals.

“When we moved in 28 years ago, there was very minimal traffic. We chose the house because we had a young child. and we wanted him to be able to ride in the street, ride his bicycle, walk, rollerblade, roller skate, or whatever,” Hart said.

Hart said the topography of the particular community eliminates the possibility of sidewalks because the roads are elevated. The roads are also very small and don’t have traffic lines he said.

“My main concern is the safety of the people in the street,” said Hart, noting most of the people in the community are older and often walk their dogs in the street.

Mark Maloney, of Indian Bend Trail, said he built his home 20 years ago as a retirement home and now he has to deal with strangers coming in all the time.

“This Airbnb is going to be right next to me. They’re going to have three in a row right next to me. I’ve been there for over 20 years. I built it, and now we’re running a business in our subdivision. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Maloney said, noting the first one shouldn’t have been put in in the first place.

Denise Maloney complained of excessive numbers of strangers coming into the community because of the current AirBnb.

“This is ridiculous, plain, simple ridiculous. The first one, there are at least two to three couples or people coming in and out of that Airbnb every single week. It’s not like they stay for five days. It’s changing [every] three days under people there,” Denise said. “We don’t know the people in our neighborhood anymore. It’s scary.”

“I’m disgusted with the whole thing. I mean, the whole thing is in a little subdivision that we live in, for three businesses to be going on and for transient people going in and out and in and out. It’s ridiculous,” Denise said. “We don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to live like that. I don’t know who’s going to be next door anymore.”

Ultimately, the commissioners voted to continue the public hearing on the issue to the next Board of Commissioners meeting on Aug. 15 due to the absence of Commissioner Lewis Davis. Davis is the commissioner for District 3, where both potential vacation rental homes are located.