Columbus City Council approved a request for a residence on Northside to become an Airbnb Tuesday night, although at least one neighbor expressed concerns.
Bill Strauss bought the house at 905 Seventh Ave. N. a few months ago and wants to rent it out via Airbnb. The approximately 1,800-square-foot house is in a neighborhood zoned R-1, or single-family residential.
Under the city’s new short-term rental regulations, landlords who want to rent a property via programs like Airbnb must go to the Planning Commission for approval. The Planning Commission unanimously approved the request on May 9 and sent it along to the council.
Robert White, who lives adjacent to the proposed Airbnb, came before the council to object. He claimed if the property was used for commercial purposes, it would change its standing under the city’s noise ordinance. It could therefore both be noisier both generally and until later at night.
City Attorney Jeff Turnage said he didn’t think the argument made sense.
“It’s going to be rented for residential purposes,” he said. “It’s not considered commercial.”
White gave it another go, continuing to argue the property should not be reclassified as a commercial property.
“When I retired in 2008 the property on the corner of Seventh Avenue North and 10th Street was a bed and breakfast,” he said. “…That property, the people who owned it lived there and so they kept things down. I don’t think Herr Strauss is going to move into that property.”
He also complained about a tree on the northeast corner that was dying and dropping limbs onto his garage.
“I’d be happy to conduct a tour if the mayor and city council want to come and look at my limbs,” he said. He claimed that the last time a tree fell on his property it caused $15,000 in damage and “cut the electricity off.”
Turnage said that wasn’t the city’s concern.
“It’s not the city’s place to ensure that a dead tree is dealt with,” Turnage said. “You have a legal remedy, maybe, if his tree fell on your property.”
Finally, White asked the council to establish rules stating “no bands, no orchestras, no music played outside the house, no loudspeakers…outside and no loud parties.”
“I’m afraid if it’s turned into a commercial property, the next step is to have a Patio 45 up there behind me,” he said. “That was a huge blunder.”
Strauss told the council he “didn’t know what to say.”
“I have been in this town for many years, and I think my reputation will tell you I don’t just put out junk,” he said. “… Our intention is to possibly rent it out shorter term in the future. Shorter term brings in a little more money.”
The property is not owner-occupied and so brings in more tax dollars for the city, he said.
“We took a property that was not being utilized and we brought it back up,” Strauss said.
Building Official Ken Wiegel said the building satisfied the ordinance, and he “saw no code violations” on the property.
The council unanimously approved the application on a motion from Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones and a second by Ward 1 Councilwoman Ethel Taylor Stewart.
Incentives for Leigh Mall approved
In other business, the council unanimously approved a request by Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins to grant tax incentives to the Hull Group, which is redeveloping Leigh Mall.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Hull Group will pay taxes on the mall at its current assessed value of approximately $3.5 million, Higgins explained. The net positive ad valorem value of any changes made to the property will be repaid to the company, along with 75 percent of the net sales tax collected on non-grocery sales. In the event of a grocery store locating in the space, 50 percent of the sales tax generated by grocery sales will go back to the company. The incentives will not include school tax collections.
The arrangement will last until the Hull Group recovers the approximately $3.125 million cost of engineering work to “flip the building inside-out” and of demolishing the Sears Automotive building on the southwest corner of the lot, or for 15 years, Higgins said.
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors approved the same agreement Monday.
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.