Life in an NC zone
A long-awaited Ordinance regulating Short-Term Rentals came before Auburn City Council on February 16, the culmination of three-years’ work by a Task Force and Planning Commission entailing multiple meetings and versions, all with public input. Over 500 residents urged City Council to pass this carefully prepared Ordinance.
Astonishingly, Council amended the ordinance to allow “Homestays” in Neighborhood Conservation zones. On March 16 City Council will vote on this Amended Ordinance that disregards the directives of those who shaped it. We urge the City Council to remove this Amendment that sacrifices neighborhoods to commercial infiltration and approve the ordinance passed by the Planning Commission on Jan. 25.
“Homestays” will allow property owners to vacate their homes and rent them STR for up to 90 days to an uncapped number of revolving door “guests.” For the remaining 275 days, that owner can rent the property Short-Term if the owner is purportedly on-site. Thus a “Homestay” is actually a year-round short-term-rental. Who polices this?
Auburn’s Zoning Code describes Neighborhood Conservation as “intended to preserve the character of existing neighborhoods” and prohibits all commercial uses, such as hotels, in NC zones. Homestays/STRs are like hotels with no on-site management. Property owners who argue they should be able to do whatever they please with their property totally ignore the purpose of all zoning regulations.
When we invested in our home decades ago in an NC zone, eight children safely played within a two-block area. Today, almost as many children live here. Their families also invested in and expect the security of an established single-family zone. The intrusion of STRs and “Homestays” into single-family neighborhoods certainly does affect a neighborhood’s “character.”
Contact Auburn City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org and request removal of the Amendment allowing Homestays in NC zones prior to passage of the STR Ordinance.
Linda Lowe Henry Dean
Hiding behind a termBecause I chose, invested in, and worked extra jobs to keep my home in an established single-family neighborhood, I am writing to voice my opposition to the Amended Ordinance that ignores and undermines the recommendations of the Task Force and Planning Commission. The Amended Ordinance could potentially allow 365 days of Short-Term rental in NC zones – 90 of those days with no owner on the premises and uncapped occupancy by “guests.”
By hiding behind the term “Homestays,” people seeking to make a profit off of their investments are pushing to change the fabric of the neighborhoods others of us have struggled to preserve. I also ask that others who oppose the amended ordinance contact Auburn’s city council at coagbemail.auburnalabama.org to express their dissatisfaction.
The ‘Growth Machine’For many years I taught courses on Community Organization and Community Development at Auburn. One concept that carried over between the two described cities as a “Growth Machine.” In essence, the business of a city is seen by many leaders as economic growth. The Growth Machine is composed of a powerful coalition of actors, including developers, bankers, the construction industry, utilities, realtors, politicians, and newspaper owners. Align these actors and little can stop them. We’ve all experienced this in Auburn.
The subject of short-term rentals (STR) is the most recent flash-point where the Growth Machine coalition has become visible in Auburn. After two years of debate involving a special task force, public hearings, and multiple drafts developed by the City’s Planning Department, an ordinance was drafted that allowed STRs including “homestays” in many parts of the city, but not in areas zoned as neighborhood conservation (NC). Space does not allow a full explanation of why over 500 citizens signed a petition or sent emails to City Councilors to pass the ordinance without change, to keep STRs out of NC zones; suffice to say that game day parties repeatedly have disrupted neighborhoods.
The Growth Machine coalition sees STRs and homestays as business opportunities, neighborhood tranquility be damned. One group of City Council members worked with the City’s administration to introduce an amendment, without advance notice, that effectively overrode years of public debate and reversed a carefully crafted ordinance. Those of us who watched the debate know that the manner in which this amendment was introduced sowed confusion among several City Council members.
Those favoring the amendment could have notified other City Council members in advance so that a productive debate could have taken place. Instead, citizens observed members of the Growth Machine wait until the last minute to exert their influence and ignore clear evidence of broad public opposition to STRs in the NC zone. Fortunately, the STR ordinance comes up again at the March 16th Council agenda. Yet another opportunity to see the Growth Machine in action. Yet another opportunity for citizens of Auburn to make our voices heard. Send an email to the Council at email@example.com and one to Mayor Ron Anders at firstname.lastname@example.org.