Short-Term Rentals Take Center Stage at Woodfin Meeting - TribPapers

Short-Term Rentals Take Center Stage at Woodfin Meeting

The fate of short-term rentals in Woodfin came to rest with the town council this month. Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Woodfin – As the November meeting of the Woodfin Town Council got underway Tuesday (Nov. 15th), Vice Mayor Jim McAllister immediately moved for rules for the speakers of the agenda hearing on short-term rentals to be enacted. Among those rules was a total time limit of one hour on speakers and that each speaker be limited to three minutes unless representing a group, and those could have 10 minutes. The motion passed unanimously. 

On with the agenda

During general public comment, a resident, Michael Maloney, concerned with children’s safety as they head to the “park that we built” along Woodfin Ave, was told by NC Department of Transportation it was a Woodfin problem and the town has told him that the road is maintained by the state. Maloney said a sidewalk area should be constructed for the children. “I just don’t want a child to get hurt.”

Resident Tony Phillips, 61, commented about having to have the same trash bins. “I understand that you want everyone to be the same, but I sort of feel like if you feel like that, you all could come in tomorrow and say that everybody’s house has to be purple and polka-dotted.” He was upset with the new trash bin requirement. He said he was there for the first time.

After public comment, Jay Hawthorne with the French Broad River Partnership made a guest presentation to the board. Hawthorne, who lives in Marshall, said his group’s mission is to maintain stream health for the economic and environmental benefit of the river. He described the watershed of the French Broad and some of its unique biodiversity.

He then talked about the importance of the river to the economy of the area. Hawthorne said that the nearly 40,000 jobs are connected to the river in some way, and the river generates billions in revenue for the area. He also said a majority of residents who were surveyed would pay about $20 a month for the rest of their lives to have the river if it wasn’t there. He said the next step is figuring out how to tap this resource for the improvement of the river.

After Hawthorne, Woodfin’s Town Manager Shannon Tuch gave her report to the board, saying that the town’s comprehensive plan on stormwater was underway in phase one with the town’s new consultants. She also explained the town was proceeding with the two pieces of property they already own regarding the new town hall feasibility study. Tuch also said the paving project had been completed.

She also informed the board about the new trash and recycle bins and said that the solid waste ordinances needed to be updated and would be coming up later in the meeting. She ended with a staffing update, saying that the only positions open were in the police department.

Adrienne Isenhower, Town Project Manager, reported to the board on the Greenway, saying the county’s Greenway Public Meeting on October 27th had 63 attendees who signed in and gave positive feedback. Two sites with alternate options are still under review: Zillicoah and Republic Services. The county also offered a timeline for the greenway project, with preliminary design occurring this winter and easement acquisitions and final design completed by spring 2024. Construction should begin in the summer of 2024 and be completed by the fall of 2025.

She also reported on Riverside and Silver-Line Parks, including the results of several surveys on additional Silver-Line amenities. At least two surveys had pickleball as their number one recommendation, while another had outdoor community space as its number one. Other suggestions included a food truck court, a dog park, green space, and a swimming pool. Isenhower asked the council to direct staff to begin the process for the existing building’s demolition, which she said was unsafe, but salvage what materials they could. 

Councilman Ronnie Lunsford asked what made the building unsafe. Tuch stated that the building was in a flood plain and that removing it would be better for the community and the river. “The town has a lot of money in that building,” responded Lunsford. That is why, according to Isenhower, they intend to salvage as much as possible from the demolition.”You’re not going to savage $350,000 worth,” Lunsford countered. A demolition cost of $150,000 has been received.

Councilman Eric Edgerton asked if demolishing the building would not stop the town from building restrooms in the park. He was told it would not. After further discussion, the board voted unanimously to demolish the building.

Public hearings

In unfinished business from last month, a public hearing continued about text amendments to chapters 46 and 54 of the town’s code about subdivisions, specifically about “flag lots” and sidewalks. After no one spoke, the board voted to adopt the new text amendment.

The next hearing was on new text amendments and regulations for short-term rentals and homestays (a homestay is where an owner lives but allows others to stay). Tuch told the council, “The main sustenance of this reformating is to create a new use category” called limited uses. She then went over the changes in detail for the board and the members of the audience.  

Under the new law, short-term rentals would no longer be allowed in R-7 or R-10 zoning districts, but any short-term rentals that are already there would be allowed to stay, Tuch said. Short-term rentals (STR) would also be limited to a house with no more than three bedrooms. The new rules also limit the number of short-term rentals owned by one person and not multiples, along with proof of insurance and other requirements. Fines would range from $100 to $500 per day. Tuch said the increase in applications for STRs is why the staff is asking to adopt the ordinance at the meeting.

Lunsford voiced his opposition to the new rule. Several questions came from the board after Tuch’s presentation, including why planning and zoning had removed the amortization of STRs where the short-term rental could be phased out of R-7 and R-10 over a number of years. Tuch said the board was motivated to get a majority vote, and it had to be taken out in order to get enough members to support it. 

Councilwoman Hazel Thorton said she liked the amortization. “Is this a good time to debate this? I kind of liked it.” Tuch said the council could put it back into the changes, or it could be studied more. Thorton said she was okay with that. The public was then invited to comment.
A number of people spoke in favor of STRs, saying they were trying to make extra money, or that it was our property and we should be able to do what we want with it, or that it was my retirement income.

“I have listened and been convinced… that the people in R-7 and R-10 should be allowed to have one and only one STR indefinitely if they already have one,” said Glenda Overbeck, a member of the planning board who approved the new rules for STRs.

Non-resident Matt Allen spoke for Land of Sky Realtors. “We represent 2,200 realtors across three counties… we are asking commissioners to delay a vote and instead get additional community input,” he told the board. He said three of the four planning board members wanted to delay any action to get more information. “Given that, a vote here tonight seems incredibly rushed and premature.” Allen voiced other concerns over the currently proposed rules.

Resident Tom Izzo, who spoke in favor of the ordinance, said the vote at the meeting was about keeping Woodfin a resident community.
Renoll Hensley spoke in favor of STR. She said she was a school counselor and her husband was a firefighter. “We are working people who use their short-term rentals as part of our income.” After about an hour, the public comment period came to an end.

McAllister made the motion to approve the ordinance. After some discussion, an amendment was added to give those who currently have short-term rentals 30 days to get permits if they do not already have one, and with that, the vote to adopt passed 5-1, with Lunsford being the lone “no” vote.

The board then unanimously passed an annexation agreement with the City of Asheville after having a public hearing where no one spoke. They then passed an updated solid waste ordinance clarifying the responsibilities of residents and the town.

The item of business before reports was to hear the results of Community Partnership Grant Applications. Tuch said five non-profits had submitted applications for just a little over $50,000 in funds. Tuch recommended the Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministries for $50,000, the Catholic Ministries for $5,000, RiverLink for $2,500, and the Asheville-Buncombe Community Land Trust (ABCLT) for $50,000. The board approved everything, with a budget amendment to fund everything coming.