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Our opinion: Facing a fine line with rentals

A policy on short-term rentals in Warren County will be a complex undertaking.

But Michael Lyon, county zoning officer, shouldn’t take any longer as he needs to come up with a workable policy.

There are 92 Airbnbs in Warren County, but there have recently been complaints raised about the increasing number of those short-term rental properties.

One reason why it’s important the county move quickly was broached recently by Lyon during a county Planning Commission. A state Supreme Court case found Airbnbs are not a compatible use in areas suited for single family homes.

Those who own houses near short-term rental properties, including those marketing their properties through Airbnb, often deal with issues that complicate their daily lives. Some short-term rentals have loud parties. Neighbors can feel uneasy not knowing the random groups of renters who cycle through a property.

There are several things a county policy could include. The county could require zoning variances for homes that are going to be rented through Airbnb or other short-term rental companies or require Planning Commission approval of such enterprises. Some cities have required permits for short-term rentals to allow better monitoring of properties and the local share of tax revenues. There are also cities that have instituted “quiet hour” guidelines to limit loud parties in rental properties when neighbors would expect neighborhoods to be quiet. Another option is a guest limit to keep the number of people in rental units from ballooning and creating an imposition on neighbors.

Warren County officials would be wise to listen to the concerns of neighbors, but must balance their concerns with the concerns of property owners who are investing their hard-earned money in an enterprise that can make them money. The city is working to boost tourism, and one argument against a new downtown hotel was a desire to encourage short-term rentals and boutique housing options for travelers.

Neighbors who have had to deal with issues are surely anxious to see something done. The county’s response must be swift enough to help those who need it, but not so heavy-handed as to hurt business owners who are in on the ground floor of a new, and increasingly popular, form of tourist housing.

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