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Letter: Short-term rental restrictions could be costly for county

Forsyth County is blessed with a tremendous economic engine that most counties can only dream of. Lake Lanier is a major tourist attraction with an estimated 7.5 million visitors per year. Many come to Forsyth County spending their SPLOST dollars and supporting local business and jobs.

Most counties welcome tourism and actively promote it. The Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce recently hired a director of tourism. The job description for this position stated, “since 2011 … visitors have generated $25 million in local taxes in Forsyth County (Source: Georgia Department of Economic Development)”.

An adequate supply of lodging is vital to a thriving tourist industry. There are no lakefront hotels in Forsyth County because there is no sewer serving the shores of Lake Lanier within the county.

Fortunately, recent technology platforms such as VRBO and Airbnb have made it practical for folks who are attracted to Lake Lanier to find accommodations in private homes on the lake and stay in Forsyth County.

Unfortunately, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners is poised to pass a new short-term rental ordinance at tomorrow’s Commission meeting that will drastically diminish tourism revenue by eliminating most Forsyth County accommodations for out-of-town visitors attracted by Lake Lanier.

Proposal of the ordinance arose out of a few complaints from neighbors who live on the lake full-time, mostly about excess noise or parking issues. Existing Forsyth County ordinances, such as the noise ordinance, could be enforced on a complaint-driven basis to penalize vacation rental hosts who consistently fail to prevent disruptive behavior. Addressing complaints in this manner can eliminate conflicts with full-time lake residents without imposing unnecessary restrictions on private property rights.

A misguided ordinance that drives vacation rental accommodations out of Forsyth County will throttle a tremendous economic engine and shift tourism revenue into the tax digest of more progressive neighboring counties. This will place a greater tax burden on Forsyth County citizens. Killing the goose that is laying golden eggs is a very bad idea. 

Al Webster

Forsyth County