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Commissioners discuss rentals on lake
New ordinance may only apply to lake area

Ahead of a public hearing next week on a proposed new short-term rental ordinance, Forsyth County Commissioners discussed what has become a controversial issue locally.

Commissioners discussed the new ordinance at a work session on Tuesday before voting unanimously to again go through details of the discussion at the board’s July 19 meeting. The topic has been the subject of numerous public hearings, discussions and meetings dating back to 2016.

“This just seems to be an issue that there are almost endless possibilities with respect to what may be the right sweet spot for regulating this,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

The new ordinance is aimed at regulating short-term rentals through sites such as Airbnb or VRBO.

The ordinance that has been discussed would require a property owner to have a local person to contact if renters violated rules, a new $250 permit required for each rented property, caps on how many residents are able to stay in one night and limiting rentals to 20 weeks in a year and no more than twice a month.

Proposed changes include requiring renters to read the ordinance and a proposed noise ordinance and a violation of the noise ordinance counting against the owner.

Those in favor of the ordinance and those opposed, often those who offer the rentals, have voiced their opinions in previous public hearings.

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 to the county and that the majority are being punished for the actions of some bad actors.

In Tuesday’s discussion, Commission Chairman Todd Levent said he may support splitting the ordinance into more manageable chunks.

“When we go to vote on this, possibly, on the 19th, I would like to dissect it out into different votes, not doing it in totality,” Levent said.

The discussion also brought up possibly limiting the rules to the area around Lake Lanier and other property bordering land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Jarrard said he is typically against rules that apply to only part of the county but “could get comfortable that this is enforceable.”

“I could make a distinction if we wanted to narrow the focus of this closer to the lake whether it is by some sort of a lake overlay that literally borders the corps line or somehow or another attempts to focus, candidly folks, on the problem,” he said. “And the problem appears to be properties that are contiguous to the shoreline that are not protected by covenants.”

Code Enforcement Supervisor Steve Zaring said most complaints come from the area around the lake.

Requiring a conditional-use permit for rentals was also brought up during the discussion.