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Commissioners looking at neighboring counties’ response at short-term rentals
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Forsyth County will be looking to some neighboring counties to tackle short-term rentals in the area.

Commissioners asked county staff at a recent work session to look into similar rules for Hall and Cherokee counties for dealing with renters using services such as Airbnb and VRBO for short-term rentals, which typically are only for a weekend.

“This is an issue that certainly has some regulatory momentum,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

In recent years, services like Airbnb have become a popular way for people to find residents who want to rent out a room or their house for short-term stays as a more personal and appealing — and often cheaper — choice than a hotel.

Jarrard said he is working with county staff for a regulation but the county does not have rules for rentals shorter than a week.

He said options for the county range from creating an ordinance with permitting and licensing for an overlay area for the rentals, which would require 60 percent of neighbors to be in favor, or making sure rentals last at least a week, which would be a challenge due to a lack of evidence.

How the county would enforce either change is another factor being considered.

Recently, the issue has become a nuisance to residents, particularly those living on Lake Lanier.

Neighbors said previously they had encountered issues with excessive noise, trash being left behind, having renters host parties that go late into the night and one property bringing a bus of people.

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she had spoken with commissioners in Hall County, which she said are preparing the first lawsuit against a violator of their ordinance, about how they handle the issue.

“They have employees scouring these sites all the time,” she said. “They have to have a business license and pay hotel/motel tax, and if they find out that they don’t, then they are in violation.”

Mills said another problem in Hall is covenants of homeowners associations not typically being effective for dealing with the issues surrounding the rentals.

Steve Zaring, code enforcement supervisor, said it is harder to catch violators in the act. It is also difficult to know who is renting.

“There are so many of them,” he said. “And yeah, we can hunt back and pick one and we might get one here. As I mentioned, we always get it after the fact, then we have to try to run folks down and stuff.”

No action was taken at the meeting, and the matter will be discussed at an upcoming work session.