By James Harrison
With supporters arguing in favor of property rights and opponents fearing the “commercialization of neighborhoods” during a housing crunch, members of Asheville’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 2-5 Wednesday to deny recommending accessory dwelling units be allowed as short-term rentals within city limits.
The proposed amendment, which now moves to City Council for future consideration, would enable property owners to rent smaller dwelling units that exist on the same property as their primary residences through services like AirBnB. It would also grant property owners the opportunity to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs) with the intent of renting to tourists.
Debate among the commission was spirited, and influenced by a dozen members of the public who spoke.
While critics of the amendment cited the city’s affordable housing shortage, supporters of the change argued that Asheville’s residents should be allowed to benefit from the continuing economic boom provided by tourism.
“Denying us honest income from the occasional visitor hurts our prosperity,” Helen Powell, a resident of the Five Points neighborhood, said. “Along with the hotels, local property owners should have that opportunity as well.”
Resident Mike Lewis offered a countering opinion.
“There’s nothing sharing about these enterprises,” he said, referencing peer-to-peer “sharing economy” sites like AirBnB. “These are purely commercial transactions.”
The city’s current policy allows for “homestays,” where property owners can rent a part of their existing homes for short-term periods. Under the proposed amendment, ADUs including garage apartments, attached suites and separate cottages could become permissible for residents to rent to out-of-towners on a short-term basis.
While acknowledging his consideration of both sides of the dilemma, commission chairman Jeremy Goldstein suggested that allowing ADUs to be rented for profit on websites like AirBnB would ultimately be more harmful than helpful to the city’s neighborhoods and residents.
“Ultimately, I think it will make housing more expensive,” Goldstein said. “You could put up an ADU on almost every property. … I’m most concerned about the commercialization of neighborhoods. The whole purpose of residential zoning is to protect neighborhoods.”
Commission member Laura Berner Hudson said that although she was “very much against” entire houses being rented short-term, the city ought to consider exploring the idea of allowing residents to rent ADUs.
“If we’re already allowing homestays, this would just change the transient’s location,” Hudson said. “Maybe it’s worth giving a try for a year and seeing what happens.”
Ultimately, Hudson and commission member Jim Edmonds were the only members to support recommending the change. Along with Goldstein, members Kristy Carter, Tony Hauser, Karl Koon and Guillermo Rodriguez voted against recommending.
The amendment now moves on to face consideration and a vote from City Council members at a future date.
Along with the zoning amendment, commissioners considered several additional items at the meeting. The following projects were all unanimously approved:
- A three-story, 72,450 square foot self-storage facility on a portion of 2.5 acres at 1292 Hendersonville Road
- A site plan for construction of 45 residential units on 1.85 acres known as 3, 5 and 99999 Atkins Street
- A site plan for a planned commercial business center on 7.08 acres of land known as 257 and 263 Long Shoals Road
- Construction of a two-story, 75,000 square foot retail building and a one-story, 8,000 square foot building at the Asheville Outlets mall at 800 Brevard Road
- Development of 290 multifamily units contained within four buildings totaling 294,812 square feet on 11.39 acres known as 55 Miami Circle and 70 Allen Avenue