At Issue: Should short-term rentals be regulated, taxed?

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At Issue: Should short-term rentals be regulated, taxed?

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Some in Sandy Springs are concerned about proposed state legislation barring cities from regulating or prohibiting short-term rentals.

Imagine living next door to a house that suddenly has a stream of strangers coming and going, staying for days at a time and then replaced by new visitors you’ve never seen before. Then imagine a state law that says your city can do little about it.

That’s the concern of some in Sandy Springs as the city considers regulating short-term rentals – homeowners renting on the internet for less than 30 days per rental.

“Airbnb, VRBO, Craigslist – there are all shorts of organizations out there where you can rent a unit or provide a unit for rental,” Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert said at a recent City Council meeting. In Sandy Springs alone, Host Compliance, a consultant working with the city, identified 211 addresses listed on 10 platforms.

The rentals could generate new hotel tax revenues, Tolbert said. But without local regulation, there’s no way to know for sure who’s doing it. Also, it’s feared the practice could alter a neighborhood’s character and create parking, noise, traffic and public safety problems.

Officials acknowledge they’re running up against proposed state legislation barring cities from regulating or prohibiting short-term rentals. House Bill 579, sponsored by state Rep. Matt Dollar, R-Marietta, also would have the Department of Revenue collect hotel taxes from a marketplace like Airbnb and remit them to localities.

“The frightening thing about HB 579 is that it would take away all of our authority to know where these things are,” Tolbert said.

Testifying at a legislative hearing last fall, Airbnb lobbyist Brandon Hatton supported the House bill and rejected the idea that hosts use the website to operate pseudo-hotels. “The average Airbnb hosts are individuals who are hosting a spare bedroom,” he said.

Should cities regulate short-term rentals? Or should private property rights of homeowners prevail? Tell us what you think. Send comments by email to: communitynews@ajc.com

LAST WEEK: SHOULD GEORGIA VOTERS DECIDE ON CASINO GAMBLING?

With the State Legislature in session, many issues will be decided by representatives. Those in favor of casino gambling have been working for years to get the issue of casino gambling before the citizenry. We asked readers if the issue should be decided by referendum.

Here’s what some had to say:

One of the worst decisions ever made by the State of Georgia was to initiate the state lottery, a tax upon fools, that opened the door to collusion between the state and criminal elements in defrauding citizens. It promised great revenues to be used for education and has been a colossal fraud upon Georgia taxpayers. Now comes the criminal element to again propose that the state collude with it to entrap willing dupes into losing their money. Will Georgia awaken to the fact that allowing casinos will further corrupt and defraud its populace. Fool us once shame on you politicians, fool us twice shame on Georgia’s citizens. — James P. Wesberry Jr., former senator 37th District of Georgia,1963-67

The voters of Georgia should decide on casino gambling. — Jessie Spivey

Yes, we the voters should have the vote on allowing gambling. I am in complete support of casino gambling. — Peter Muntan

Yes, we should put this to the voters of Georgia. We are losing tax dollars to other states surrounding Georgia. Many of our friends and neighbors drive to Murray NC right over the GA border a few times a year to play the machines at NC casinos. We also drive to south Alabama casino too. With our trade show industry, entertainment film industry this is a sure bet to win. Think of all the shows in Vegas. It is not just about gambling. — Michael Esposito, Kennesaw

I vote “yes.” The voters should make the decision on whether or not to allow gambling in Georgia. — Sandra Wallbaum

As a child who was often carried to Atlantic City prior to casinos and continued to go and enjoy the beach while casinos took over I would have to say no to casinos in Atlanta. I saw the rise and the fall. Then I saw many of the folks I grew up with unable to get job when Atlantic City shuttered. It is not about only the immediate goals. Think about the future as the cycle is bound to go around. Like many others I planted my feet in Atlanta in 1991 for what it wasn’t. As one of the few dwellers calling Atlanta home when compared to the many folks who commute every day I can tell you loud and clear I do not want to see a casino in Atlanta. It brings crime and the folks like me supporting this sometimes sorry City cannot lose anything more. May be good in the beginning but it will eventually die and the already poor in Atlanta will be in worse shape looking for that lucky slot. Yes I gamble from time to time and the bus is fine for me getting to Alabama once or twice a year. My voice counts and I want to cast my vote. The folks that vote yes are looking at the looking at the glass half full when in reality it is half empty. —M.E.

Sometimes it’s the responsibility of legislatures to determine what’s in the best long term interests of the larger community they serve, and on the issue of casino gambling, the Georga Legislature has to step up to the plate and decide that no part of Atlanta, or any other community in the State of Georgia, should ever look like Las Vegas. The long term consequences far outweigh any financial benefits promised by the gambling lobby. — Jerry Talansky

The voters should be able to decide on whether they want to allow casino gambling in Georgia. A few powerful conservative legislators should not be able to dictate how all of the people should live. What has become of the Republicans disdain for government interference in the lives of the people? Let the people vote! — MH in Tucker

As well paid, aggressive lobbyists push for casinos in Georgia, polls indicate that some voters like the idea. But the average citizen may not realize what they are asking for. I’ve lived in Georgia for 31 years, but grew up on the island where Atlantic City is located. Because of casinos, the once “Queen of Resorts” turned into a war zone with run down abandoned buildings. Most local businesses shut down. An island where schools and full time residents flourished, became an island of predominately summer homes, with a few schools remaining. Former residents escaped to the Mainland to avoid the crime, obvious prostitution, and falling property values. Statistically, only 5 percent of gamblers are wealthy. Many are poor and uneducated. Gambling addiction is a huge problem, and lives ruined as a result. Casinos aren’t concerned about those lives, because The House ALWAYS wins! Casinos in Georgia – a losing bet. — Cyndy Hartman, Athens

The Georgia capitol has been besieged by casino lobbyists for several years. In fact, there are more casino lobbyists than senators. They seek a constitutional amendment that would allow the voters to decide whether Georgia should have casinos. The gambling industry can then pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into billboards and television ads glamorizing “destination resorts” and touting money for education. If the opposing side had the same amount of money to promote the facts, the harmful aspects of gambling would be told. Research shows that gambling and casinos are associated with higher crime rates, lower property values, gambling addictions, bankruptcy, domestic violence and child abuse. These are the “unglamorous” facts that the gaming industry ignores for the sake of profit. Our elected officials are there to study what is best for the citizens of the state and only pass what is best, not pass that duty off to voters. Otherwise, they are endorsing casino gambling. — Judy Craft, Peachtree Corners

Shelagh MaRee Hardrich for the AJC

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