TEASER Pinehurst, Village Hall

(File Photo/The Pilot)

The thorny issue of regulating short-term home rentals in Pinehurst in a way that does not run afoul of state laws could be on the agenda for the next Village Council.

Candidates for mayor and two open council seats were asked about their positions on the matter — among other issues — last Tuesday night during a forum sponsored by the Pinehurst Civic Group.

Candidates were divided on how far the village could — and should — go to deal with the issue, especially given the N.C. General Assembly’s recent attempts this summer to restrict the authority of local governments on several fronts, including short-term rentals.

“I believe it is a problem for some neighborhoods,” said former council member John Strickland, who is running for mayor. “We need to address this. I am sure in the next council, this will come to be a very serious question.”

His opponent, Claire Berggren, also a former council member, was more cautious, noting that Pinehurst’s origins were as a resort-rental community.

“My understanding is right now the legislature says you can’t treat a short-term rental differently than you can a long-term rental. … We have to step lightly and (stay) within legal bounds.”

Berggren and Strickland were both members of a previous council that balked at dealing with the issue in October 2014. Back then, Village Attorney Mike Newman issued an opinion that any attempt to keep people from renting their homes “will not survive judicial scrutiny.”

The Lake Pinehurst Association had asked the village to create a zoning “overlay district” covering the 288 lots around the lake and a code amendment to ban rentals of less than six months. Association members complained that a few homes there are rented regularly to weekend golfers who sometimes party into the early morning hours, subjecting neighbors to noise, profane language and cars parked everywhere.

The village’s advice at the time: Call the police if there are problems.

Police Chief Earl Phipps said at the time that the few complaints the village received then did not warrant doing anything more.

Berggren, a former marketing director for the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, was among a majority of council members who shared the chief’s position, which she reiterated during the forum Tuesday night.

“The easiest, most legal thing to do, is if you have folks who are renters and they are being disruptive, call the police,” she said.

Strickland had wanted the village look further into the matter five years ago, suggesting that a task force be formed. But the other members did not want to go down that route.

The short-term rental issue was resurrected last year when council member Judy Davis, who was elected in 2017, said the village should look into creating a permitting process for short-term rental homes, as it does for such things as home-based offices. It came as a new collaborative working group of elected leaders and senior-level staff members of Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen — called Tri-Cities — also began discussing short-term rentals in July 2018. That discussion focused on such things as safety, impacts to the surrounding neighborhoods, and collecting room occupancy taxes.

Short-term rentals have long been part of the fabric of Pinehurst. Popular websites like VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) and Airbnb have made it cheap and easy for homeowners to rent their houses. A check of Airbnb this week found at least 112 homes for rent in the Pinehurst area, and 95 listed on VRBO.

Strickland believes Pinehurst could follow the examples of other towns and cities around the country, including Raleigh, that have implemented regulations for such things as “fire and emergency requirements” that hotels and motels must meet.

“I think that is a very basic standard that we should be looking at for Pinehurst,” he said.

He added that issues regarding fees and permitting could also be discussed “in a mutually convenient way” with those who rent their homes and residents in neighborhoods where there have been problems.

Berggren said she would want to avoid exceeding the authority granted by state law “by us trying to force some kind of regulations or permitting on a short-term rental.” She said other municipalities are looking at things related to safety that can be considered.

“And there are property rights that you have to honor,” Berggren said. “People can live there, they can rent it or sell it.”

The three candidates running for two open seats on the council — Lydia Boesch, Jane Hogeman and Stuart Mills – also differed on what the village should do. All three are attorneys.

Boesch said she recently took part in a continuing legal education program on short-term rentals that included a presentation by officials from Asheville. She said they “first defined how big their problem” had gotten, and spent two years studying it “to find a solution to fit their problem and stay within the parameters of state law.”

“So I believe it’s time for Pinehurst to do the same.” she said. “Let’s identify the problem. Let’s bring our neighborhoods in and see what the problem is. I believe it is time for us to develop a policy that fits our problem but also stays within the constraints imposed on us by state law.”

Hogeman agreed that short-term rentals can be a problem that impacts the “residential atmosphere” of neighborhoods where they are located. She said one way “to keep them down is to not allow rezoning for high density,” such as condos and apartments, and keep existing single-family home neighborhoods the way they are now.

Hogeman said she is unsure of all the “mechanisms towns are permitted by the state to use.”

“But we should look at all these mechanisms to make sure we are using everything we can to protect our local citizens here year-round,” she said.

Mills said he would apply the same rules to short-term rentals as other rental properties.

“If people are disturbing the peace, then you ought to call the police,” Mills said. “If they leave trash and are not complying with the rules, the owners of the property should be held responsible.”

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com.

(10) comments

Mandy Berg

Is this the only topic you are reporting from either Pinehurst forum? It’s shocking that you do not write a proper write up of all the issues the candidates spoke about at both the Pinehurst Civic Group or the League of Women’s Voters events.

Robert Wilson

Actually, that has recently changed. A new study from the UNC School of Government, which the VoP relies upon upon for many regulatory and legal issues, recently determined that a local NC government may rely on its zoning authority to regulate Short Term Rentals (STRs). Please see: Legislative Update to Regulation and Taxation of Short-Term Rentals by Rebecca L. Badgett and Christopher B. McLaughlin.

Unfortunately, the problem is growing in our town. The Village of Pinehurst is second in the USA in for growth of STRs, according to an internal Airbnb study of annual growth in bookings, up 243%, and places the VoP Ninth IN THE WORLD in growth rate of STRs. Not sure that is a badge of honor.

A solution of simply calling the police seems to completely ignore the current political concerns and groundswell citizen movement to protect neighborhood character and tranquility; the inclusion of STRs as a high concern in the Envisioning Process and its recommendations; and, the fact that the assembled group of partiers just next door (perhaps at least 3 different rowdy groups per week depending on the rental house) might determine and try to lash out in some way to those persons who call the police (i.e., our Citizens, including elderly neighbors or spouses caring for children while the other spouse is deployed).

It also appears to clearly put short term renter enjoyment over legitimate VoP Citizen/Voter/Taxpayer concerns. And, it doesn't seem like fair play to our local hotels who are forced to have rooms and run operations that are fully insured and comply with commercial building and safety standards.

Joe Mack

First, the growth of Vacation rentals has not been a problem in Pinehurst, as evidenced by the testimony of the Police Chief. I believe records show only 2 incidents in the past 5 years. Your animus against Vacation Rentals is reflected in the ludicrous claim that there are “3 different rowdy groups per week”, completely unfounded.

Robert Wilson

Why don't you use your real name when you post? What are you hiding?

Robert Wilson

How can you post without using your name?

Joe Mack

All these lawyers running should READ the General Statute

Under Chapter 42A of the Vacation Rental Act, the following 160A-424 applies:

c) In no event may a city do any of the following: (i) adopt or enforce any ordinance that would require any owner or manager of rental property to obtain any permit or permission from the city to lease or rent residential real property or to register rental property with the city, ...

Conrad Meyer

Jo Mo, just a question if I may.

How can you post without using your real name? The Pilot discontinued the ability to use an alias years ago when the discourse got out of hand.

Richard Wright

I do not think you have the right reference. The Vacation Rental Act does not have a paragraph 424. You might look at 160A - 194 Regulating and licensing businesses, trades, etc.

(a) A city may by ordinance, subject to the general law of the State, regulate and license occupations, businesses, trades, professions, and forms of amusement or entertainment and prohibit those that may be inimical to the public health, welfare, safety, order, or convenience. In licensing trades, occupations, and professions, the city may, consistent with the general law of the State, require applicants for licenses to be examined and charge a reasonable fee therefor. Short term vacation rentals in areas as zoned for single family residences violates the zoning law --- and most of these short term rentals are to groups not families.

Joe Mack

The Vacation Rental Act was amended this year to include the provisions of 160A-424. See SB 483 which was passed and signed by the Governor.

Robert Wilson

A new study from the UNC School of Government, which the VoP relies upon upon for many regulatory and legal issues, recently determined that a local NC government may rely on its zoning authority to regulate Short Term Rentals (STRs). Please see: Legislative Update to Regulation and Taxation of Short-Term Rentals by Rebecca L. Badgett and Christopher B. McLaughlin.

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