Tybee Island extends STVR moratorium for another two months

The debate over short-term vacation rentals has plagued the Tybee Island community for years.

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Tybee Island voted again to extend its moratorium on short-term vacation rentals (STVR) at Thursday night’s council meeting. The close 3-2 vote will take the ban on issuing new STVR permits to properties in residential areas of the island on the one-year mark until the end of October.

Over the next few weeks, the city will continue to revise the municipal ordinance governing the operation of STVRs on the island and will present the reworked ordinance for first reading at their September 22 meeting. The second reading, which will codify the new ordinance, is expected on October 13.

What has been accomplished? : Tybee Island’s STVR moratorium could end this month. And after?

After: Tybee is closing in on limiting STVRs on the island. Here’s what we know.

Thursday night’s decision infuriated vacation rental companies, real estate agents and some landlords who say Tybee is stifling the tourism industry and infringing on property rights.

However, the extension has relieved much of the public, mostly long-time residents, who believe vacation rentals have eroded their residential communities and over-tourism has contributed to a diminished quality of life.

As neighbors finished their pleas on the podium for the council to extend the moratorium for nearly a year, these residents waved signs reading “Save Tybee Neighborhoods.”

Tybee Island’s STVR Problem So Far

Tensions between longtime residents of Tybee Island and the STVR industry extend far beyond the enactment of the moratorium last September. Vacation rentals have existed in the coastal community since the 1920s according to planning commission director George Shaw.

Today, these homes or rooms rented for 30 days or less are commonly advertised on sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

Initial story: Tybee City Council enacts moratorium on short-term vacation rentals; license suspended for 90 days

STVR in Savannah: Short-term vacation rentals ’empty’ historic neighborhoods while driving up costs

Formal regulations in the form of an STVR ordinance did not exist until 2016 and formal data collection on the number of STVRs on the island only started five years ago. This data shows a steady increase in the number of vacation rentals in Tybee, from approximately 1,000 to 1,550 units between 2017 and 2021.

STVRs make up about half of the housing on the island, and about 48% of them are located in residential neighborhoods. However, the number of STVR permits does not always match the number of units operating as one. Owners can choose to rent seasonally or retain a permit for future use.

For the small barrier island of around 3,000 people, tourism has been both a boon and a curse. While businesses are thriving, boosting Tybee Island’s local economy, increased visitation has put a strain on the town’s limited resources such as water and physical infrastructure. Residents regularly complain about the lack of parking, unbearable traffic (US 80 is the only way to get in and out of the island), and noise, as well as pollution, exacerbated during the tourist season when the population can multiply by ten.

Opinion: Tybee quarters have gone to tourists. It’s not too late to fix the STVR problem

STVR regulations are only one facet of the tourism industry, but it is one that has become a corner issue on the island.

What the audience had to say

During Thursday night’s public comment period, resident Shirley Wright, who has been a strong supporter of STVR regulations, implored the council to make meaningful changes: “I urge you to take these two months to resist to make small changes in drabs and dribbles because whatever you decide is going to be unpopular… We are divided on the island beyond anything I’ve ever seen on this issue and I’m asking you to remove this dressing from the wound.

Those who fall on the other side of the line have often pointed to the multifaceted nature of resident complaints, arguing that it is difficult to identify the source of these negative impacts and that day trippers are equally to blame, if not more responsible. .

STVR in Savannah: Short-term vacation rentals ’empty’ historic neighborhoods while driving up costs

Cody Jones, who represents a number of realtor associations, including Savannah-area realtors, said he was more than happy to help Tybee reign in behavioral issues related to STVR guests, but opposes extending the moratorium. Jones even warned that Tybee Island had brought the issue to the attention of lawmakers across the state.

“Some members of the Georgia Assembly will probably consider changing the moratorium powers that municipalities have … precisely because they interpreted this as an abuse of the moratorium,” Jones said. rentals in general leads to a destruction of real estate values ​​and a destruction of the municipality’s housing market and I strongly encourage you not to go down this path.”

Residents have testified after testimony illustrating that the STVR industry, which represents more than a third of their communities, has had an impact. And, while the city may not be able to regulate the number of day-trippers visiting the island, it can put caps on vacation rentals.

“I’ve seen my neighborhood go from all permanent residents to over half vacation rentals now,” said Anna Butler, who has lived in Tybee since 1994. “I support extending the moratorium so the new ordinance can be developed in a fair and equitable way… I know not everyone is going to like that.

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Ultimately, many people on both sides of the issue are looking for a balance, a balance the city has worked to find over the past year through surveys, town halls and stakeholder meetings. Small steps have been taken so far, such as increasing permit fees and setting an occupancy rate. A number of debates are still ongoing, including capping the number of STVRs.

“I think a lot of effort has gone into this process,” said Mayor Shirley Sessions, “and I don’t know if we can ever get enough of it. I don’t think we’ll have the answer to everything in a strict coordinated order, but I think it’s the start.

Nancy Guan is the general assignment reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @nancyguann.

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