Commissioners deny contested short-term vacation rental permit

Published 9:00 am Friday, February 9, 2024

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After a public hearing on Tuesday evening, the Troup County Board of Commissioners has denied a special use permit for a short-term vacation rental on Leonard Road.

County staff initially recommended approval of the permit for the three-bedroom house on approximately 30 acres at 163 Leonard Road but later changed the recommendation to denial after learning that the owner of the property, Anthony Askowitz, had allegedly been operating the property as a short-term rental without a license.

The Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously recommended the denial of the special use permit, which also got significant pushback from the nearby community. The zoning board was sent a letter with concerns about the short-term vacation rental along with a petition opposing the permit with 30-plus verified homeowners that were verified to live nearby.

Several residents spoke during the public hearing in opposition to the permit and even more attended the hearing to oppose it. When asked to stand, about 10 adults indicated they opposed the short-term vacation rental permit.

Ronald Dodson led the group opposing the short-term vacation rental, saying it would potentially disrupt the quiet neighborhood, bring in strangers that would reduce the safety for the community and children and increase noise and traffic.

Shayne Goddard, Director of Development, Property, and Facilities for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes, Inc., said the short-term permit could potentially affect the safety of kids at Camp Pineland/Pioneer.

“We don’t know the people are going to rent this facility. We don’t know their history. As opposed to my neighbors. I can look online and tell you if they are a child sex predator and my job is to protect children and to protect those 2,500 acres that’s directly across the street from this facility,” Goddard said.

“We may never have a problem, but I can’t take that chance. I represent the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Homes and the Georgia Sheriff’s, I’d ask that you deny this until we can have some type of assurance that this isn’t going to happen and I just don’t think he’s going to do record checks on these folks,” Goddard said. “This isn’t a hotel district. This is our home.”

Cynthia Arnold of Youngs Mill Road said she had heard gunshots coming from the direction of the property late at night.

“They found like automatic or semi-automatics or some kind of military rifles. They’re not regular guns or shotguns or rifles,” she said.

Attorney Lonnie Haralson spoke on behalf of the applicant and in favor of the special use permit.

Haralson argued that despite what the others had indicated, the home in question is not in a neighborhood but in a rural area of Troup County.

“It’s probably one of the more rural areas in Troup County. This particular piece of property is a 30-acre piece of property. The driveway is almost a half mile long to get back to the dwelling,” Haralson said. “The closest house is a little more than a tenth of a mile away.”

Haralson said that Askowicz had not violated the county’s short-term vacation regulations because the only time he had rented the property was for 30 days, which does not require a permit. He said Askowicz had placed the property on Airbnb but only recently because he needed money and the property was never rented in a short-term capacity.

Haralson also argued that Askowicz had met all of the standards for a short-term vacation rental permit so it should be approved.

“The law basically dictates if those standards are met, that it needs approval by the board, That’s what the requirements in law are. If you set out a group of standards, and they’re met, then there has to be something that says a standard has not been met to be able to deny. Otherwise, we’re just allowing people to apply, knowing full well we’re going to deny their applications for special use,” Haralson said.

Haralson said Askowics purchased the property in 2021 with the intent to rent it out long before the county placed its moratorium on short-term vacation rentals in place in 2022. He said it has taken until recently to fix up the property for it to be a viable rental.

“I would ask that the board approve this Airbnb. This is in my opinion, a perfect place for an Airbnb because it is not in a neighborhood setting. It’s in a very rural setting. It’s in a position that is in the middle of a 30-acre track or piece of property with a half-mile driveway,” Haralson said.

Ultimately, the Troup County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to deny the special-use permit.

In other business, the commissioners:

4 Voted to elect Ellis Cadenhead as Vice-Chairman for 2024.

4 Approved a GDOT contract that will provide two additional expansion vans for Troup Transit. The project is fully funded by federal funds for $215,380. The vans were offered to Troup County by GDOT as surplus vehicles no longer needed in another jurisdiction.