Cobb County postpones vote on Airbnb rentals, other regulations

Cobb County on Tuesday postponed a vote to regulate Airbnb-like rentals. Courtesy of Cobb County

Cobb County on Tuesday postponed a vote to regulate Airbnb-like rentals. Courtesy of Cobb County

Cobb County commissioners on Tuesday postponed a vote to regulate short-term rental homes — possibly for as long as another year.

The decision was delayed along with a series of other proposed regulations, after residents complained that there wasn’t enough time for the public to weigh in on a lengthy package of changes to the county code.

The changes run the gamut. In addition to the short-term rental home regulations, the commissioners delayed votes on relaxing alcohol sales at Six Flags Over Georgia, banning smoking in public parks and enacting new rules for when developers are required to obtain traffic studies. The commission also deferred a vote on changes to its noise ordinance and industrial zoning classifications.

The commission’s informal policy is to consider code amendments in bulk once a year. But the list of revisions grew so long that residents and commissioners alike said they struggled to get questions answered and ensure their feedback was heard.

While the delay will allow the public more time to comment, it won’t offer any immediate relief to residents who are seeking action on vacation homes that are rented out on sites such as Airbnb and Vrbo. Today, these properties pay hotel and motel taxes, but their owners don’t have to obtain a business license from the county to operate.

The proposal would charge a $55 annual fee to obtain an operating certificate. It would also impose a $500 fine for a short-term rental owner’s first violation of noise, zoning or building codes. A second violation would lead to a $750 fine, while a third within 12 months would allow the county to revoke the owner’s ability to rent.

Commissioner Monique Sheffield of South Cobb said she would push for stronger penalties for violations, after residents complained of loud parties late at night.

“It’s turning our communities into something that they’re not,” she said. “...We’re turning our communities into hotel locations.”

Most commissioners favor regulating short-term rentals, but it’s not clear when the proposal will resurface. At the meeting, county staff suggested deferring the code changes until the fall; it could also come back next January, if the commission continues to handle code changes in bulk once a year.

The commission did approve a handful of code amendments that they said were uncontroversial. These changes included eliminating redundant language and incorporating new state laws into the county code.