Correction: The initial story, posted Sept. 8, was amended Sept. 13 to reflect the correct number of condo units proposed and draw a distinction between condo units and guest rooms as defined under city rules.
There’s a new 27-unit condo building planned for 145 Biltmore Ave. in downtown Asheville that is straddling the line between a condo building and a hotel, something that triggered a discussion about the status and tracking of short-term rentals at Friday morning’s Asheville Downtown Commission meeting.
The commission’s Downtown Design Review Committee got an early look at plans recently, and Chairman Michael McDonough was reporting back to the full commission. He told his colleagues he initially thought the project would be condos, but that it had “evolved toward lodging.”
Alan Glines, assistant director of the city’s Planning Services Department, concurred, saying developers were planning to ask Asheville City Council for a conditional use permit. Glines reminded commissioners that City Council earlier this year approved a new ordinance that requires any project proposing 20 or more guest rooms up for short-term rental must come before Council for approval. The rules were passed in response to growing concern about Asheville’s ongoing hotel building boom and the impacts of increased tourism on city infrastructure. (Glines added that a project of 21 or more rooms for lodging also has a requirement for parking.)
McDonough said the project property fronts both Biltmore and South Lexington (which parallel one another) and said the design review committee had a discussion about setbacks and where, exactly, they would be required. The project is proposing 42 “guest rooms” as counted under the city’s rules, Glines said; one condo unit could contain multiple “guest rooms.”
Commission members Byron Greiner and Dane Barrager asked Glines how the new rules for short-term rentals apply to existing buildings in downtown. Greiner asked specifically about the new 55 South Market condo project, which just started construction. There are 70 luxury condominiums planned there, and 20 of them are being marketed as short-term rentals, said Greiner, who works as a Realtor.
Glines said city planning staff had a conversation earlier in the week about that very topic – what happens when folks in existing buildings start doing short-term rentals. The answer, he said, is that they need to get the proper permits. He noted that most existing commercial condo buildings have strict rules about how and when owners can rent out their units. Many “don’t want a lot of rentals,” he said, adding that city staffers are still working on “how we watch the incremental use of short-term rentals” in existing buildings.
The 145 Biltmore Ave. project is a “fortuitous” one in that developers have been transparent about their plans. “It gave us a chance to see that we will probably see more projects like this,” he said, noting that “my guess is they could have hidden” the planned use and gone through the approval process of a regular condo building.