Commissioners mull short-term rentals
State may take action first on the matter

Forsyth County Commissioners continued discussions Tuesday on how to deal with residents’ concerns caused by their neighbor’s short-term home rentals, though the state might have its own plan in mind.

At a work session Tuesday, Forsyth County Commissioners talked the matter over, specifically as it concerned weekend renters using services like Airbnb and VRBO.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the state could soon be taking its own action on the issue.

“I think there is a bit of a headwind down at the state capitol this session to preempt all local regulation on this issue,” Jarrard said. “I just want to say that to you before we go and spend a lot of money and time and resources to come up with a new overlay.”

Overlays are used by the county to impose certain standards on an area and could be created to deal with the rentals. 

Jarrard said the city of Savannah and Lumpkin and Greene counties currently have regulations on the rentals in place.

“That’s such a popular way of using property, that I think there is a lot of pressure for a statewide solution to this, rather than 159 different county solutions for it,” Jarrard said. 

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.

While the rentals might save money for consumers, the county does not get the same taxes that the visitors staying at a hotel would generate.

There’s also concerns of noise complaints involving these renters.

Neighbors said previously they had encountered issues with excessive noise, trash being left behind and renters who host parties that go late into the night — in one such instance there was a whole busload of people who reportedly joined late night festivities at one rented residence.

Steve Zaring, code enforcement supervisor, said the rentals are popular in Forsyth County, including areas not immediately around Lake Lanier.

“Two weeks ago there were over 500 properties, and that’s not just shoreline; that’s throughout the county,” Zaring said. 

Zaring added that “half or better” of the properties were on the lake.

Commissioners also discussed methods for controlling the side effects of such rentals, such as having too many cars at a house and in the street as well as too much noise.

Compounding the issue: most complaints don’t come in until Monday morning for weekend rentals after the renters have already left the area. Zaring said he gets a complaint every week.

Jarrard said he would reach out to find where state legislation might be going. Commissioners plan to discuss it again at their next work session.