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City Council passes ordinance to allow Airbnb in residential zones

Photo via City of Athens
Written by Kayla Wood

Athens City Council approved an ordinance that changed the city code regarding the legality of Airbnb locations in residential areas during its Monday meeting..

After Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, introduced Ordinance 0-17-16 for third reading, the council voted 6-0 in favor. Peter Kotses, D-At Large, abstained from voting because he owns commercial property.

According to Fahl, the ordinance requires anyone running a bed and breakfast, Airbnb or otherwise, to collect a transient guest tax. Hotels and motels in the city are already required to collect this tax.

The ordinance stated Airbnbs and bed and breakfasts could be run in R3 and B zones, which are residential areas and business areas, respectively.

Fahl also said bed and breakfasts in R3 zones, which are residential areas, could be either owner-occupied or owner-managed, meaning the owner would not need to live in the property.

Community members expressed concerns about allowing Airbnbs to function as businesses in residential areas.

“I had assumed when I read this that you were going to require owner occupancy,” said Betty Hollow, an Athens community member. “So I’m a little bit concerned about the fact that this may simply be owner-managed, which means that the owner may be at a very far distance and have very little day-to-day control and certainly would not necessarily be on site to control what goes on.”

Hollow went on to say those in residential areas might not be willing to live right next door to a business.

Fahl explained that Airbnb is not a new concept, and that bed and breakfasts in European countries are often in people’s homes.

Other residents in attendance supported the adoption of the ordinance, especially because there are already other laws in place that address the concerns with noise, trash, parking and other disturbances that could arise from Airbnbs.

Abe Alassaf, who ran an Airbnb last year, came to the meeting and told Council he received a notice that he was in violation of city code last November. He lives in an R3 zone, which is now an accepted zone for bed and breakfasts.

“They were enforcing a law that said you couldn’t own or couldn’t run an Airbnb or a B&B unless you were in a specific region, which was very, very specific and very, very small,” Alassaf said.

Alassaf is a proponent of less regulation in terms of running an Airbnb.

“There could have been a lot more done,” Alassaf said of the new ordinance. “If you want to have (an Airbnb), I think you should.”

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Kayla Wood

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