ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — Buncombe County is looking to potentially add new regulations to short-term rentals in the unincorporated area of the county, and at least 65 people voiced their opinions during a listening session Monday night.
Nathan Pennington, the county’s planning director, said leaders just went through a long-range planning process known as the Comprehensive Plan 2043. Part of that process was to look at the city’s ordinances and identify themes. One such theme that needed to be addressed, and possibly updated, was short-term rentals. Short-term rentals, also known as STRs, are often homes or spaces that are booked online through sites like Airbnb or Vrbo.
“As it stands, short-term rentals are allowed, and there was enough community interest to look at what types of regulations we might want to put in place,” Pennington explained.
On Monday evening, Buncombe County’s planning board continued its December meeting in a larger space to hear from the rest of the public who didn’t get to voice their stance at the previous meeting.
Speakers in favor of changing the regulations were concerned that Airbnbs are eliminating affordable housing, orienting the area to tourists instead of locals, fragmenting neighborhoods and pricing people out of communities
“(STRs) don’t contribute anything to the community,” one speaker said.
Pennington said it’s important to note that Buncombe County only has the authority to regulate short-term rentals that are in the unincorporated part of the county, which means none of the municipalities will be affected. Pennington said the current rules in place for STRs are very basic.
“Needs to be a rental of a two-night minimum,” Pennington said, describing the rules. “There is a size limitation and a limitation on the total number of humans that you may have.”
Staff will be putting forward a few more additions, including trash receptacles, no parties and no large gatherings. The board will also be suggesting some sort of grandfathering provision.
Pennington said the demand for housing greatly outpaces the supply in the county.
“The fact that we are a popular community and everyone wants to be here, I think that’s the main reason why folks are interested in looking at some type of regulation,” he said.
Another factor could also be that people buy houses in neighborhoods for the peace and quiet of the area.
“There are those that would argue short-term rentals sometimes bring different elements that may run counter to what you’re signing up for in a neighborhood,” he explained.
Pennington expected there to be around 200 people at Monday’s meeting and expected it to be a 50/50 conversation.
“Let’s see how the next sort of meetings play out and then we’ll have a better idea and be able to then get to the heart and soul of what’s actually being proposed,” he said.
Anyone unable to make Monday’s meeting will have more chances soon — two more work sessions are scheduled for February and a public hearing in March.