Troup County Commission denies permits for pair of short-term vacation rentals

Published 10:00 am Friday, August 18, 2023

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Commissioners voted to deny two special use permits to operate short-term vacation rentals in the Indian Bend community near West Point Lake.

The permits were denied after multiple public hearings for each, where many residents in the neighborhood spoke against their approval. The decision was postponed from the Aug. 1 commission meeting when the board voted to continue discussion on the matter at the next meeting due to the absence of Commissioner Lewis Davis, whose district contains both properties.

The separate requests were made by Alfonso and Margarita Garcia at 297 Indian Bend Trail and Patria Ybanez and Seng at 277 Indian Bend Trail Hall for special use permits to allow the properties to be used for short-term vacation rentals, commonly known as Airbnb rentals.

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Both applications were recommended for denial by the Board of Zoning Appeals with votes of 6-0.

Attorney Lonnie Haralson spoke on behalf of the applicants. Haralson again argued that the commissioners shouldn’t consider what the neighbors believe might happen with the rentals because applicants have never operated an AirBnB nor have the properties been used for one.

Haralson said the applicants have agreed to follow rules set by county ordinance for short-term rentals and further conditions that the commissioners might require for approval.

Numerous residents from the community voiced opposition to both special use permits during both public hearings with concerns ranging from traffic and pedestrian safety to crime and litter to simply not wanting strangers coming in and out of the community regularly.

Greg Hart, of Indian Bend Trail, said that traffic in the small community can be dangerous because of the nature of the roads.

“It has two short roads, and three or four cul de sacs that are very short. In those short roads are some extreme hills that are short and very steep,” Hart said. “I doubt that anybody here could ride a bicycle up one of those hills, which means that traffic can’t see over those. So that is a significant issue,” Hart said.

Hart said that there is also a school bus that has to back up around one of the steepest hills in the subdivision.

“We’ve been told that a these [AirBnBs] are not going to affect the health and safety of the residence. But I can assure you that was a significant issue,” Hart said. “I can assure you that was a significant issue, just watching that school bus, and it does that on a regular basis.”

Mark Maloney said the current AirBnb that was previously approved for the community has been a menace and a disturbance for the neighborhood.

“Allowing the Airbnb at 277 and 297 Indian Trail would make three AirBnbs in a row next to me and the one that was already granted at 287 was a mistake,” Mark said.

Mark said that the community only has 40 homes, so if they are approved it would mean a lot of AirBnbs percentage-wise.

“This Airbnb doesn’t belong in this neighborhood. It was zoned Lakeside Residential, and that’s why we built, invested and retired there,” Maloney said.

Ultimately, the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to deny the special-use permit for both homes.

In response to the first vote, Haralson said he doesn’t understand why the county even has the ordinance.

“Based off the last vote, I don’t understand why we have the ordinance anyway. It’s a situation where this applicant has met every single criterion of the ordinance, and there’s been nothing but speculation,” Haralson said. “I understand when neighbors don’t want something. That’s why they have they have the opportunity to enter into covenants in their neighborhood. They don’t have that. But now the county has essentially formed a type of covenant for the neighborhood.”

“Because the neighbors just don’t want it, I don’t think that’s any evidence as to why it shouldn’t happen. Otherwise, your application process needs to have more restrictions. Because it’s a waste of $500 for the applicant to apply,” Haralson said.

Several residents spoke up during the second hearing saying they know what will happen because of the AirBnB that is currently in the community.