Positions on Monuments, Haywood Street Property and Short-term Rentals/Accessory Dwelling Units
As we get closer to early voting on September 21st and primary election day on October 10th, I wanted to provide my positions on the following difficult issues facing Asheville – monuments, Haywood Street property and Short-term rentals/Accessory Dwelling Units. It’s taken me a while to formulate these positions because I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people on all sides of them to better understand their perspectives. While I know that these issues vary in importance to people, my request is that you do not support or oppose me just based on my position on any one of these. Asheville is facing many difficult challenges that we need to address and we should not use any of these as “wedge” issues in this campaign. That said, I also think that voters have a right to know where candidates stand on them.
Monuments: State law prevents local governments from removing or relocating certain monuments on their own. I strongly believe that local governments should have the right to determine which monuments exist within their borders and that this law should be repealed. There are three monuments in Downtown Asheville with ties to the Confederacy – a small obelisk by the Buncombe County courthouse in commemoration of Buncombe County Confederate soldiers, a stone with plaques commemorating Robert E. Lee in Pack Square, and the Vance memorial. Personally, I would like to see: 1) the small obelisk by the courthouse relocated to a museum or Civil War battlefield, 2) the stone with plaques commemorating Robert E. Lee removed, and 3) the Vance monument rededicated.
Haywood Street Property: Perhaps no piece of land has generated more debate than the property across from the U.S. Cellular Center known as the “Pit of Despair.” Over the years, plans for this property have included a massive parking garage and a hotel. Earlier this year, a citizen task force provided vision (not design) recommendations for the use of that space including both active and passive uses. I agree with the need for that property to have active and passive uses, as the task force recommended, but I believe that it should be green space without buildings on it. Oddly enough, in talking to people on “all sides” of this issue, I was quite surprised with the general level of agreement for its use – the main issue of division appeared to be whether or not to have a building on the property.
Short-Term Rentals and Accessory Dwelling Units: I have received more questions about short-term rentals (STRs) and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) than any other issue during my campaign. Over the last couple of months, I worked with a UNC student to learn more about the issue by talking to residents and some who served on the ADU Task Force, reading reports, and conducting our own analysis and research. We spent considerable time researching how other cities including New Orleans, LA addressed these issues.
While it’s clear that people are not monolithic in their views, we found those who are against STRs/ADUs are generally concerned about the quality of life/character of their neighborhoods including: commercial business being conducted in residential neighborhoods, parking, safety from not knowing those who are renting, removal of units from the rental market that could be used for long-term housing and its subsequent impact on affordable housing, impact to their property values, and “absentee” hosts/companies/investors that could purchase many properties in an area. They also have concerns about the City’s ability to enforce STR/ADU regulations.
We found that those who support STRs/ADUs generally would like to participate in the tourist economy, believe that short-term renting is an appropriate use of their property, and, in some cases, need the additional income to stay in their properties or make ends meet. Furthermore, those who support STRs/ADUs generally agree with the importance of the concerns expressed by those opposed to STRs/ADUs, but do not believe that they will come to pass with great frequency if STRs/ADUs are permitted.
One of the difficulties that we faced is that, while there is a lot of anecdotal information, there isn’t much good data or research into STRs and ADUs. As someone who prefers to rely on data when making difficult decisions such as this, the lack of good data is troubling and suggests to me that we need to proceed cautiously and incrementally.
I want to be clear upfront that I am opposed to whole house short term rentals. My view is that a host needs to be on the premises. I think having a host on the premises will significantly cut down on any noise issues and will also provide a direct point of contact to address any problem.
I am recommending the following comprehensive approach where the City enhances enforcement to better ensure that only licensed STRs and ADUs are operating and launches an 18-month pilot program for ADUs as homestays limited to 125 units City-wide to evaluate their impact. I understand the concerns regarding the possible impact on long-term rentals and affordable housing which is why I recommend limiting the pilot to 125 units in order to see the actual impact. I also include requiring a distance requirement between ADU homestays so that they are not overly concentrated in certain neighborhoods. For those who are opposed to STRs and ADUs, I believe that it’s very possible that enhanced enforcement will actually lead to fewer STRs in the City than we have now since those operating illegally have a better chance of being discovered.
The specifics of my position follow and should be viewed in their entirety.
Enhance Enforcement to Ensure Compliance
Note: Applies to both STRs and ADUs
- Every online STR service (such as Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) must require rentals to post photos of City registration in the rental posting. Rentals will also agree to do so as a condition of receiving/continuing to receive a permit to operate.
- Every online STR service (such as Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) must provide the City/enforcement entity with timely (biweekly) data on rentals booked in the City including owner, address and rental cost so that this information may be cross-checked against City registrations and to ensure proper tax withholding. Rentals will also agree to this process as a condition of receiving/continuing to receive a permit to operate.
- As a condition for permit, rentals will agree to only use STR online rental services that have agreed to the requirements noted above. The City will list those rental services.
- Notify surrounding residences when STRs/ADUs apply for a permit to operate and when such a permit is granted.
- Provide an open and accessible complaint line for issues with STRs/ADUs. City/enforcement entity shall attempt to verify the complaint by speaking with the complainant and the owner and shall document their findings. Refusal by the owner to cooperate with verification would be considered a substantiated complaint.
- Utilize a “three strikes and you are out policy” of substantiated complaints. For each “strike,” the owner must provide a written explanation for how the complaint will be fixed or prevented from happening again.
- Law does not supersede current or future restrictive covenants on properties prohibiting STR/ADU use.
18 Month Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Homestay Pilot Program
- Pilot program lasting 18 months of allowing ADUs to register as homestays and rent under 30 days.
- Allow up to 125 ADU homestay permits City-wide on first-come-first-served basis.
- Enact a distance requirement between ADUs depending upon density of the neighborhood so that they are not concentrated in one area.
- Require a host on the premises.
- Require properties to have inspections and liability insurance.
- Owner must pay all applicable taxes/fees.
- Establish useful reports to analyze pilot program effects during pilot. Data points to include:
- Whether ADU remained as a short-term rental throughout 18 month period
- Whether a long-term renter was displaced as a result of the move to a short-term rental
- Number, type and source of neighborhood complaints
- Survey results of ADU owners and neighborhoods
- GIS location of permits
- At the end of the pilot program, evaluate the impacts to determine whether to continue or discontinue permitting ADU homestays