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Proposal prohibits vacation rentals in some areas, tightens rules in others
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New regulations on vacation rentals would hit Hall County property owners with fines of up to $1,000 for breaking the rules.

On Feb. 21, the Hall County Planning Commission will hear a proposal to tighten restrictions on vacation rentals operating through sites like VRBO and AirBnb. The new regulations would also have to be approved by the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

Currently, vacation rentals are allowed in the Vacation-Cottage zone that surrounds Lake Lanier and the Residential-I zone, which extends to light residential areas throughout the county. The new regulations would ban vacation rentals from operating in the R-I zone. And even in the V-C zone, starting up a vacation rental property would require the approval of the county commission.

New restrictions come with stiffer penalties: After a verbal warning, property owners can be fined up to $1,000 and lose their business licenses if neighbors have repeated complaints about renters. If a Hall County marshal responds to a complaint, the new regulations also require a property owner to respond in person.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs has been a driver of the new rules, and before the end of 2017 he requested the commission lay down a moratorium on all new vacation rental businesses until March.

In the past year, Gibbs has retold stories at commission meetings of beer bottles strewn about residential streets, parties raging into the night in neighborhoods and a general state of uncontrolled industry in the county as vacation rentals attract tourists.

“While we welcome the economic impact that tourism may spur, we have to find a more efficient way to regulate this industry in order to minimize any adverse effects that occur on surrounding permanent, residential areas,” Gibbs said in a statement on Friday.

There are a few other regulations that would be added to the county books if the proposal is approved this year:

  • No more than four vehicles can be parked at a vacation rental property.
  • Each bedroom, adjoining hallway and common area must have a working smoke detector.
  • Vacation rentals with an approved occupancy of six or more people are considered “non-regular residences” and would require an onsite inspection and compliance with commercial building codes.
  • If a business license for a vacation rental is secured, the owner of the rental is required to pay for the county to send letters to all neighbors within 500 feet alerting them to the license.

As of the end of 2017, when the moratorium was put in place by the commission, the county only had eight licensed vacation rental properties on the books — but dozens of properties are available for rent around the lake and in other areas of the county.

“Like with most code enforcement issues, the Marshal’s Office will rely on complaints originating from the residents who might experience negative impacts from any short term rentals,” Planning Director Srikanth Yamala wrote to The Times on Friday. “They will also start to investigate online listings of rentals involving 30 days or less and work with the property owner towards bringing them into compliance.”

These properties aren’t permitted or licensed, making keeping up with them and enforcing current regulations a difficult task for the county.

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