Glynn County’s attorneys want a lawsuit filed last year dismissed because they say the zoning ordinance doesn’t prohibit vacation rentals in certain neighborhoods on St. Simons Island.

Catherine Kyker, a resident of the King City neighborhood near the Pier Village, filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus in Glynn County Superior Court in November. A writ of mandamus is a legal ruling requiring a government entity to fulfill a legally required duty if a court finds it was not doing so.

The court filing claims short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in residential areas zoned R-6. An R-6 lot is one smaller than 6,000 square feet.

In the motion to dismiss, the county’s lawyers state, among other things, that the Glynn County zoning ordinance doesn’t prohibit vacation rentals in R-6 neighborhoods.

In the case of an R-6 lot, an “accessory use” is defined in the ordinance as a use “which is customarily accessory and clearly incidental and subordinate to the principal use.” A single-family residence qualifies under the county’s zoning ordinance, the motion states. Short-term rentals are commonplace in Glynn County, and are considered by the county to be accessory, according to the motion.

Even if vacation rentals were prohibited in R-6 areas, a writ of mandamus can’t be used to force a government agency to “follow a course of conduct or duties,” which includes enforcing zoning ordinances, the motion states.

The county’s lawyers also make the case that a mandamus doesn’t apply because enforcement of the zoning ordinance is at least partially discretionary.

“First, there is no clear legal right to have Glynn County enforce any particular provision of the (ordinance),” the motion states. “In addition, enforcement of the relevant provisions of the (ordinance) are determinations that are subjective in nature, involve the use of discretion, and vary by circumstance.”

Finally, the county’s lawyers argue that Kyker could report the offending rentals to the county for violating ordinances dealing with the number of vehicles parked in front of the house, noise, or number of occupants. Because of this, she has another legal remedy, and an action by the court would not apply.

Kyker’s initial court filing cited section 302 of the zoning ordinance, which reads “The term dwelling shall not be deemed to include a hotel, motel, rooming house, hospital or other accommodations used for more or less transient (purposes).”

Kyker’s lawyer argued that the definition of dwelling precludes short-term rentals from being a permitted use in residential areas.

In addition, the filing claimed allowing “unusual” numbers of people to rent small homes went against the county’s stated goal for residential zoning districts.

Listed in the zoning ordinance, those goals are to “encourage the formation and continuance of a stable health environment for one-family dwellings” and to “discourage any encroachment by commercial, industrial, high density residential,” or any other development that adversely affects single-family homes.

The suit also claimed “abnormal and illegal” numbers of vehicles were being allowed to park at residences. The legal limit for vehicles parked in front of single-family homes in Glynn County is four.

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