Zoning meeting

Short-term rental property owner Miranda Todd speaks to the Wilson County Board of Zoning Appeals at its meeting Nov. 21. ANGIE MAYES

A short-term rental property in Wilson County was granted approval to stay in business by the Wilson County Board of Zoning Appeals at its monthly meeting Nov. 21.

The approval was increased from one year, as had been done in the past, to two years. Part of the reason, BOZA chairman Rusty Thompson said, was that the owner may not be able to make reservations past when the renewal was up.

Miranda Todd, one of the property’s owners who spoke to the BOZA, had requested a three-year renewal period, but Thompson recommended two years.

Short-term rental properties fall under the bed and breakfast regulations, according to County Director of Development Services Tom Brashear.

The current ordinance includes all transient guests that are unrelated to the homeowner, Brashear added, stating that any immediate changes to the ordinance would include the words short-term rental under the bed and breakfast language.

Brashear said that the state has “intervened on some level on short-term rentals to limit how much local control we have.”

“We’ve not had any issues,” Todd said. “We’ve had a maximum of two guests at a time. No neighbor complaints. We’ve been doing really well.”

After the approval, Todd said that the property has been popular with guests and they’ve had an 85 percent rental rate over the past year. Many of those people are return guests, she added.

Short-term rentals are becoming increasingly popular in Wilson County. The numbers have grown over the past year and planning departments expect it to increase. However, none of the cities within the county, or the county itself, has a firm number of such places.

That is attributed to some rental location owners simply opening up without getting a required business license.

Mt. Juliet requires a business license, according to Planning Director Jennifer Hamblen. However, the county’s finance department records show only 11 licenses have been granted.

In Lebanon, city planning director Paul Corder said that, “an Airbnb or any other business would need a business license if it did enough business. I do not know how many we have because they do not need a permit. We treat them like any other home occupation if they are in a residential neighborhood in the city. Within the commercial districts, we treat them like a hotel.”

Brashear said that his office also does not have a firm number, because “short term rentals are a moving target. I can tell you that we have had approximately six or seven come through the board of zoning appeals process since passage of our local regulations in March 2018.”

He noted that the state subsequently passed legislation after that date which effectively grandfathered in all short-term rental operations that could prove operation prior to the passage of the state law and paid taxes.

County commissioners have been researching “what is entailed in paying taxes aspects of this grandfathering,” Brashear noted. “For instance, Airbnb and other major short-term rental organizations have an agreed upon tax payment structure with the State of Tennessee.  However, this does not extend to local tax obligations that could be interpreted to be an obligation of any such operator of a (bed and breakfast, short-term rental, inn) as we have defined it.”

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