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Commissioners approve noise ordinance, discuss short-term rentals
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Forsyth County Commissioners did not approve new rules for short-term rentals this week but did approve a new ordinance that could help with one of the biggest issues.

At their regular meeting on Thursday, Forsyth County Commissioners approved a new noise ordinance by a 4-0 vote, with District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos absent, and discussed the proposed rental ordinance before voting to have another public hearing at their Aug. 2 meeting.

The new noise ordinance will give law enforcement in the county the ability to write citations for noise over a certain limit – 60 decibels for night time and 70 during the day – from one residential property to another. Officers will have discretion on giving the citations.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Tom Patton requested discretion because outdoor activity such as pools, playgrounds and tennis courts could be louder than the allowed limits.

“Our understanding of your intent is a desire to shut down loud parties at 1 in the morning, not some child’s outdoor birthday party in the afternoon,” Patton said.

Loud noise in residential areas has been a common complaint among those supporting a new ordinance aimed at short-term rentals through sites such as Airbnb and VRBO, which have become more popular in the county in recent years.

Commissioners have worked for months to strike a balance between those in favor and against the ordinance.

Those in favor of the ordinance have raised issues with loud or messy renters, safety and a home in a residential area being used for a commercial purpose.

Those against the ordinance have said they could stand to lose money under the rules, that rentals bring tourists who spend money in the county and that the majority is being punished for the actions of some bad actors.

On Thursday, some changes were proposed for the ordinance by County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

Under the changes, the rentals cannot be for less than six or more than 24 days, no more than 20 weeks in a year and no more than twice a month. A violation of the noise ordinance would be considered a violation.

Those found in violation of the code would have a fine of up to $250 for the first violation, a $500 fine and 30-90 day suspension of the license and up to a $1,000 violation and revocation of the required short-term rental permit for a third violation in 12 months.

Commissioners discussed potentially limiting the scope to only the area around Lake Lanier, where complaints appear to be the most prevalent, and requiring a conditional-use permit to operate the rentals.

Though no public hearing was held at the meeting, speakers on both sides of the issue voiced their opinions.