City’s illegal ordinance shafts hundreds, including elderly couple
Interview with David Tulis. (Courtesy NoogaRadio 92.7)
I am confronting an illegal ordinance from the Chattanooga city council that arbitrarily and capriciously forbids me from monetizing a house through the Airbnb short-term rental network online. Council members’ ill treatment of me sets a precedent that allows them to treat others any way they like, and will not accept city government’s bluster over its authority.
By Brian Peterson
At issue is city council’s decision about who can and who cannot have short term vacation rentals in the city of Chattanooga. Why is this important to all the readers? Because if the city uses an arbitrary process for short-term vacation rentals, they can justify using this same logic for anything.
My wife, Laura, and I have successfully had an Airbnb rental for over a year in Chattanooga. To be specific we have it on the back side of the Ridge. We were recently informed via a letter that this is illegal. We found that an “overlay” map was created by the city council: It is legal within the district, and illegal outside.
This prompted an email communication with our district representative, Carol Berz. We had spoken with several other STVR owners and decided that we wanted to meet with Dr. Berz to discuss how we could change the situation.
I will spare you the details and frustrations that ensued for almost 2.5 months of email communication. She finally agreed to meet, and included the city lawyer and another city council representative. Dr. Berz’s initial comment to me was: “Oh you are the one who wrote that ridiculous email,” a polite and respectful one that nonetheless demanded a meeting.
The city representatives gave us the history of how the city arrived at the current ordinance.
Their ordinance emerged without supporting facts and is a one-year experiment.
Dr. Berz stated that until she had received our email communication that she had not had one person voice their support for STVR in her district. Ironically, one of the gentlemen in our group knows her personally and was at the open hearings and not only supported STVR, but did not recall one negative comment against them.
In speaking against Airbnbs, Dr. Berz cited the use of houses by party-throwers, drug dealers and human traffickers as key fears. But she offered no statistical evidence.
Hotels and motels suffer the same problems, I countered, adding that Airbnb has a strict vetting policy, with renters and landlords rating each other with every visit.
The attorney from Wade Hinton’s office said that the city did not ordain blanket permission for Airbnb because shrinking it later would have created litigation from people who would have lost their right to rent.
The other City Council person commented that 80% of the STVR owners were included in the overlay. Think about that the vast majority was included. People on the ridge, downtown, St. Elmo’s and North Shore. If you see an economic disparity with these regions that are included, you are not alone.
The selection of some people to be in the district while others in legally identical situations are rejected is wrong. It violates the arbitrary and capricious standard in law that requires equal treatment and due process.
Petersen says court must shut down Airbnb ban