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Hall County Board of Commissioners hold off on vacation rental vote
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners tabled a vote on short-term rentals on Thursday until March 28.

After hearing from residents both for and against changing vacation rental regulations, commissioners said they wanted more time to decide. The vote was unanimous, with Commissioner Jeff Stowe phoning in.

The proposed rules would allow all homes zoned Residential-I or Residential-II to be vacation rentals, pending approval by the Hall County Planning Commission. Currently, homes zoned Residential-II are not eligible, while homes zoned Residential-I need to be within 500 feet of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ line around Lake Lanier and in a subdivision with 10 or fewer homes.

The current rule was passed in March 2018.

Those in favor of the changes said Thursday that they understand opponents’ concerns about loud parties and congested streets. As homeowners, they don’t want those problems, either, they said.

Several emphasized that there is a responsible way to run a vacation rental, by screening guests, setting rules and looking out for problems. They also said that ratings systems on sites like VRBO and Airbnb are self-regulating, leaving problem homes and inconsiderate guests with low ratings.

“Bad ratings, you’re not getting business,” Danielle Sterner of Oakwood said. “So, keeping your property maintained and managed well is actually a built-in accountability for that.”

Lee Goff of Gainesville said he realized commissioners were faced with a tough decision and it was not a “black and white” issue. However, many rely on vacation rentals as an income source, he said.

“I have friends and a lot of people I know. This is their livelihood,” Goff said. “This is their fixed income. This is not a simple manner. These people literally pay for their children’s school, their college, their health bills, thousands of them in Hall County alone.”

Others told commissioners about their negative experiences with rentals in their neighborhoods, with cars blocking the street and noise at odd hours.

Jim Garnett of Gainesville said he lives in a narrow street with tight lots not meant to accommodate for large gatherings.

“You have so much congestion and the lots are so small. People are going to park on the street,” he said.

Dennis Pritchett of Flowery Branch said Residential-I neighborhoods should keep their character, and he feels short-term rentals would impose on that.

“When a man works or resides there, he deserves privacy. He doesn’t want two doors up a situation where you might have a high school reunion with 40 people there,” he said. “Yes, it’s a six-bedroom house. … It gets out of control.”

There will not be another public hearing March 28.

Hall County Board of Commissioners

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, March 28

Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville