Saturday meeting wants opinions from residents
This coming Saturday at 10 a.m., the Norris City Council will meet to hear community comments and discuss a proposed city ordinance to regulate so-called short-term housing rentals in the city.
Described as a “listening session,” the meeting will be held in the Community Center and will be open to the public. What the council hears from those attending the session will be considered as the council shapes the ordinance.
Short-term rentals are defined by Tennessee law as being overnight accommodations, other than hotel and bed-and-breakfast lodgings, of at least one night, but no longer than 30 nights. They have become popular worldwide through such online services as Airbnb and Vrbo (Vacation Rental by Owner).
The meeting will be conducted by Mayor Chris Mitchell and other council members, who want to hear what residents want to see in an ordinance regulating such rentals in the city.
No progress has been made on the issue since a proposed ordinance was presented to the council at its October meeting by the city’s Planning Commission, which wrote the draft measure.
At that meeting, the council voted to table the measure for further study after Mitchell and Councilman Will Grinder expressed opposite views on it. Grinder told fellow council members that he believed the proposed ordinance was too strict, while Mitchell said he felt it was too lenient.
While the meeting day and time were agreed upon during the November council meeting, the council decided on the format for the session in the December meeting, and reconfirmed the date.
Mitchell has said he wants the ordinance to be strict enough to stop investors from buying multiple properties in Norris for the purpose of setting up short-term rentals to create a sort of “hotel” in the city.
He said there already are Airbnb and Vrbo rentals available in Norris, and that the issue is important to the city.
“This [will have] probably the biggest impact to the quality of life … that we have in Norris,” Mitchell said.
“There will be a day you will be driving down the road looking for a hotel or an overnight rental,” he said. “Some of this is happening now.
“I want [public] involvement in this [ordinance],” he added. “This impacts your life. … I think this [Jan. 8 meeting] is the start of the conversation.”
During the December council meeting, Grinder said he does believe that short-term rentals need to be regulated, and seemed to have changed his earlier, more-lenient stance on the ordinance.
Larry Beeman, a former council member who most recently was chairman of the Planning Commission, told the council that the ordinance is needed.
“There are consequences of doing nothing,” he said during the December council meeting. Beeman resigned from the Planning Commission in November.
The draft ordinance – as it is now written – can be found on the Norris city website at cityofnorris.com.