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Roswell ponders how to regulate, make money from Airbnb services

Roswell City Council members are discussing the need for more regulations and oversight of short-term home rentals through sites like Airbnb or VRBO.

Currently, the city has no rules about the rental services, which means Roswell makes no money off of an Airbnb stay like the city would from a traditional hotels stay.

Cities like Woodstock and Sandy Springs already have short-term rental policies in place. Roswell had been waiting because there was a prospective bill this session in the General Assembly that would have set state-wide rules for short-term rentals, but the legislation failed. On Tuesday night, the Brookhaven City Council tweaked its zoning code to allow more residences to offer short-term rentals.

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For years, Roswell code enforcement officials have been going to Airbnb host homes to wag a finger at the owners, but the city has no policy with which to punish people.

“It’s the Wild West,” said Councilman Matt Tyser at a community development and transportation committee meeting Wednesday. Councilmembers at the meeting directed the committee to begin working on a policy that the the City Council could vote on later.

Industry analysts found that as of March the city had 220 active Airbnb hosts charging a median nightly rate of $125, according to Roswell finance director Ryan Luckett.

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He said the lack of regulations means the city loses between $40,000 to $50,000 in hotel-motel tax revenue every year.

But there are concerns beyond the money.

“It’s out of character with the neighborhoods,” said Alice Wakefield, director of community development.

Councilman Matt Judy said he was worried about safety. “I have a 6-year-old kid, and if an Airbnb or a VRBO pops up next to me and a sexual predator or somebody comes in, I’d like to know there’s an Airbnb next to me.”

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