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Short term rental ordinance input sought by aldermen

By Ward 2 Alderman Jim Martin

clinton ms

A proposal to allow short term rentals (STRs), such as Airbnbs and VRBOs, has been presented to the Board of Aldermen/Alderwomen (BOA). It has generated much discussion. I, and I believe the other Alderpersons, will appreciate hearing your input.

Presently, our Ordinance on rental properties does not allow rentals for less than 30 days. Therefore, one could have a month-to-month rental term. The short-term rental ordinance would allow one-night rentals.

The Board could: (1) not change the Ordinance, keeping the 30-day minimum; (2) allow STRs with no regulations or (3) allow STRs with a regulation Ordinance.

The STR issue arose in conjunction with a proposal to place five train cabooses for short term rental in Olde Towne on Jefferson Street, across from Johnson Mill.

It was noted that STRs were not allowed under our present Ordinance. A petition was signed initially by 55 residents, with more later added, most living in the Olde Towne area opposing the STR cabooses. The proponent of the cabooses withdrew his request, prior to a vote by the BoA. The review and consideration of allowing STRs, however, continues.

The initial proposal was to limit STRs to the Olde Towne District. There is discussion of allowing STRs anywhere in the city. Along with the caboose proposal, there was a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission on May 24 about allowing STRs in the Olde Towne District. A large number of residents appeared at the public hearing, most in opposition to STRs. P&Z unanimously recommended that STRs not be allowed. A public hearing has not been held for STRs to be allowed anywhere in the city. Should a public hearing be held?

Many Clintonians have stayed in STRs in places they have visited. Most have favorable reviews. STRs are alternatives to motel stays and have kitchens for meals, if desired.

The primary general question is whether, and to what extent, STRs promote tourism and what issues do STRs create.

Clearly, STRs create an alternative to motels for visitors. Do they attract visitors who would not otherwise visit Clinton, or just provide an alternative place to spend the night? They create income for the STR owner. Some STRs are owner-occupied, but most appear to be investment properties for full-time rental.

When someone stays in a motel, they pay the 7% sales tax, plus a 3% additional motel tax, 2% of which is dedicated to tourism and 1% of which is dedicated to maintenance of our parks. The 3% motel tax cannot be collected from STRs. Some STR booking agents collect the 7% sales tax. Some rely on the STR owner to remit the 7% sales tax.

When a visitor stays in a motel, dining in our restaurants is primarily their only choice. When a visitor stays in an STR, they may prepare and eat one or more meals in the STR. What effect will STRs have on our restaurants? In addition to supporting our restaurants (and encouraging new ones), restaurants collect the 7% sales tax and the newly implemented extra 2% tax, which is dedicated to our parks.

A zoning ordinance provides some uniform regulations in the various zoning districts. In my opinion, the primary purpose of a zoning ordinance is to protect the next door neighbor. It generally prohibits businesses from coming into residential areas and permits similar types of businesses in commercial and industrial areas.

An STR is clearly a business. Allowing STRs anywhere in Clinton will allow such businesses to operate in our residential areas. Since STRs are for overnight stays, are they compatible for operating in residential areas?

What is the effect on property values with having an STR next door or in the neighborhood? If having an STR nearby is not attractive, the nearby property values will decrease. If having the STR is attractive, values will increase.

I have received a number of comments from Clintonians that they have favorably stayed in STRs but would not want one operating next door to them or in their neighborhood. Comments have included concerns about traffic and never knowing who is the occupant. Is it someone visiting for business, for a sporting event, to visit a friend or relative or a tourist? Is it someone looking for a place to party or for some mischievous purpose?

A number of our newer neighborhoods have covenants that do not allow STRs. Neighborhoods without covenants will be the ones where the STRs will locate. If a City ordinance allows STRs but the covenants do not, the burden will shift to the homeowner associations to hire legal council to enforce their covenants.

As with any new idea for our city, the benefit needs to be weighed against any detriment. STRs require such review. Your input is requested. Please contact your Alderperson or all Alderpersons. Copying all Alderpersons on an email is efficient and appreciated. We care about all of our city, not just our wards. We appreciate hearing from Clintonians. Our contact information can be found on the City website at www.ClintonMS.org/about/leadership/board.


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