It appears that attempts by the county to regulate vacation rental homes have hit a legal obstacle.
Proposed standards for transient rental properties that were drafted by Lincoln County Planning Department staff received a red flag from County Attorney Wesley Deaton.
The issue was discussed during Monday night’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners, during which County Manager George Wood informed board members that it had been discovered that the ordinance would have unintended consequences.
Deaton noted that not much could be done, unless it was applied across the board to all single-family residences in the county.
He additionally said that permitting provided very limited options, as well.
County officials had consulted with a faculty member of the University of North Carolina School of Government regarding options for regulations, which have changed due to a state statute change last year.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance was scheduled for the Aug. 6 commission meeting, but will no longer be necessary as the regulations are, as Chairman Alex Patton said, “dead for now.”
Discussion on the issue arose locally following complaints from members of Denver’s Westport community.
As the Times-News previously reported in recent months, Westport homeowners have repeatedly aired their frustrations before the board regarding noise, loud parties and an abundance of trash and cars coming from a home on Howard Lane that is currently being rented out to large groups of people on a weekend and weekly basis.
Commissioners were hesitant to get involved, noting that they didn’t want to punish all landlords due to the actions of one. Some also suggested the matter may best be handled through a civil suit.
Deaton told them at the time that they could look at both defining and regulating vacation rentals, but even then that would not affect the current situation in the Westport community, as the Howard Lane property would be grandfathered in with certain vested rights.
“You can’t retroactively stop something that’s already there,” he told the board during a May meeting.
Planning staff and members of the Planning Board brought back their own recommendations regarding the situation and moved forward with drafting proposed regulations.
Now, with those regulations essentially obsolete, Denver resident and landlord Ted Campbell is relieved.
Campbell, along with his partners, owns and rents a cabin located on Trails End Road in Denver.
He consulted with Zoning Administrator Randy Hawkins while the ordinance was being drafted, offering his own opinions from a landlord’s perspective.
He told the Times-News Wednesday that it was a “big shock” when the issue first came up.
Though he said he certainly could understand the Westport residents’ frustrations, he didn’t think all landlords should be restricted because of one situation.
“I think landlords have a big responsibility,” he added, noting that he does a number of things throughout a screening process to ensure that problems are minimized with renters.
He also noted that he talks with neighbors, who have his telephone number to contact him should the need arise.
Campbell additionally emphasized the fact that rental properties bring money into the county not only through rental fees and accommodation taxes, but also through the money spent by renters on things like groceries and gifts during their stay, which he estimates could add up to between $1,000 and $2,000 a week.
“It’s big money to this economy,” he added.
Furthermore, landlords must invest in their property to keep it in good shape to attract those renters. This, said Campbell, can help boost the property values of surrounding homes. It may also result in renters eventually relocating to the area, especially when staying near homes for sale.
“We open ourselves up to the world,” he said.
And, at least for now, Lincoln County landlords can continue to do so.