A topic of conversation at the City Planning Commission meeting on February 23 was Airbnbs.
Although the Mayor suggested that there are several Airbnbs already operating in Mountain City, the town doesn’t currently have any zoning ordinances for Airbnb properties.
“Looking at our ordinances, we don’t have anything,” Jordan said. We have Airbnbs, and we’ve had realtors call asking about houses and whether or not they are zoned for Airbnbs.”
Chairperson Karen Cunningham raised some concerns about the issue of parking, arguing against allowing Airbnb properties in certain residential zones. “Airbnbs should not be permitted in R1–we need to protect it,” Cunningham said.
Another reason behind the decision to regulate Airbnbs has to do with the opportunity for funding. As it stands, if someone books an Airbnb through the platform, none of that money goes back to the city.
“The town is losing quite a bit of money here, and it needs to be addressed,” Mayor Jordan said.
First Tennessee Development District Community Planner Amber Orlikowski agreed. “If you do it correctly, you will get revenue,” Orlikowski said. “You can do this by limiting parking and asking individuals to get permits.”
Mayor Jordan said that the question of Airbnbs will be addressed further at the upcoming City Council meeting, but adding a zoning ordinance for Airbnbs may take some time. “The ordinance will have to have a first reading, a second reading, and then a public hearing,” the Mayor said. “The Planning Commission makes the recommendation, but the Board of Aldermen makes the decision.”
Interim City Recorder David “Bud” Crosswhite added that the whole process could take two months or more.
Crosswhite admitted that he hasn’t seen any problems with Airbnb properties. To the best of his knowledge, there has “not been one single complaint” made to the town about Aibnbs.
The Mayor sees the potential for Airbnb to boost the local economy. “The town benefits from Airbnbs–people come here and spend their money,” Mayor Jordan said.
But the Mayor wants to be sure that this is what the community wants. “We might send out a questionnaire to the city residents to find out what people think.”
Crosswhite agreed. “We want to do the right thing for the town,” Crosswhite said. “We want to help people, not hinder them.”