Glynn County commissioners will take another crack Thursday at imposing new regulations on short-term rentals outside the Brunswick city limits.
County officials estimate the Golden Isles may play host to as many as 1,000 short-term rental units that don’t pay the 5% bed tax on nightly room rentals. In addition, the county claims they are often rented out for large gatherings and to people who either aren’t aware of or flaunt local noise, parking, trash and public safety regulations, according to county documents.
The ordinance would outlaw short-term rentals unless the owner or manager has an accommodation excise tax, or bed tax, certificate displayed in the rental unit.
Bed tax certificates with an identification number would be issued annually by the county finance department for a fee of $150. The department would also keep a record of local contacts if the certificate holder is not a county resident. All property-specific advertisements would have to include the certificate number under the ordinance.
If the ordinance passes, all rentals would be required to meet relevant building and safety standards and all zoning regulations. Rental owners would need to set parking limits and give directions for off-site parking if necessary.
County ordinance violations carry fines up to $1,000 and 60 days in jail.
The proposed ordinance is not without opposition. Bed tax certificates are well and good, but spokespeople for the Golden Isles Association of Realtors and Short Term Rental Owners Association of Georgia question the legality of conditioning a bed tax certificate on the owner providing individual details about their property.
In a letter to Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning, Southeastern Legal Foundation General Counsel Kim Hermann says the organization believes the ordinance would violate state law.
A similar local ordinance passed in 2005 by the Marietta City Council was found to violate a 2003 state law banning registries of residential rentals, and Hermann writes that her legal analysis suggests Glynn County’s proposed regulations would not pass muster either.
“Given that the revised ... ordinance requires property owners to provide far more information than the city of Marietta’s rental registration ordinance did, there is simply no way around the fact that it requires the registration of short-term rentals and thus constitutes a residential rental registry,” the letter states.
Hermann wrote that the county’s ordinances already seem to impose many of the requirements in the proposed short-term rental ordinance.
Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy has been one of the short-term rental ordinance’s strongest proponents. One of his supporting arguments is the numerous complaints he has received from residents who live near short-term rentals. Some rentals are known to negatively impact the neighborhoods in which they are situated, Murphy said at the commission’s last meeting.
The safety of renters is another concern he’s raised in the past, saying not all rental units are up to the safety standards required by large groups of people.
Unpaid bed taxes are also a subject the ordinance seeks to address.
The commission delayed a vote and public hearing on the ordinance two weeks ago to get more input from local groups, including the Golden Isles Association of Realtors.
At the time, Murphy assured the short-term rental owners and operators who aren’t negatively impacting their neighborhoods that they should not run afoul of the new regulations.
All new ordinance or ordinance amendments are subject to public hearings. Thursday’s meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be conducted virtually and broadcast to the county’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
Residents can submit public comments in writing to email@example.com. Email comments will be presented to the commissioners and read into the public record of the meeting.
The deadline for submitted comments is 5 p.m. today. The county asks that all submissions include “Short-Term Rental Ordinance — Public Hearing” in the subject line.
The public can also participate in the public hearing from the second-floor conference room in the Harold Pate Building, 1725 Reynolds St. in Brunswick. County staff members will be on-hand with a computer connected to the online virtual meeting.
In other business, the commission will consider proclaiming Oct. 18-24 as Friends of Libraries Week and changing the county’s pension arrangement from its traditional model to one more like a 401k retirement plan.