November 29, 2022


World Travel Service

Vacationers or locals? Dauphin Island wrestles with regulating short-term trip leases

Vacationers or locals? Dauphin Island wrestles with regulating short-term trip leases

Leanne Potts and her husband, Scott Warnke, have been leasing out their two-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot cottage in Dauphin Island for the previous 4 years.

Their renters, she stated, have been quiet. Some are retirees who go to the state’s solely barrier island to expertise its fame for prime fowl watching. Others merely come for a weekend getaway.

“We really feel like we’ve improved the island,” stated Potts, who grew up in Cell, discovered swim as a younger lady on Dauphin Island and now lives in Alpharetta, Georgia.

“We’d prefer to proceed renting it out,” she stated.

However a proposal limiting short-term rental homes to principally the West Finish of Dauphin Island may forestall Potts and different property house owners from renting out to guests.

The proposal is contained inside a 350-page rewrite of Dauphin Island’s zoning code, and it’s stirring passions on social media and a debate over whether or not city officers ought to limit the rising business that’s dominated by corporations like Vrbo and AirBnb.

It’s also creating an odd divide in a city of round 1,800 residents, pitting full-time residents towards the short-term renters in an East Finish versus West Finish wrestle over the place vacationers ought to go.

Metropolis officers are additionally divided as they provide differing views over whether or not town ought to cater extra to full-time residents or be extra accepting to the tourism business that dominates the island.

A listening to earlier than the city’s Planning Fee is scheduled for five p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 9) on the City Council’s chambers.

“The truth is the island depends closely on tourism for financial sustainability,” stated Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier. “There isn’t any query about that. What we are attempting to do is strike a steadiness which I counsel in making an attempt to take care of financial stability and, on the similar time, preserving the allure and integrity of an island group for all folks – guests and residents.”

He added, “It’s a tug-of-war occurring. I take care of this on an nearly each day foundation.”

Regulating leases

Dauphin Island map

A proposed zoning map for the City of Dauphin Island’s short-term trip rental overlay district. (City of Dauphin Island zoning code proposal)

The difficulty focuses on the creation of a “short-term trip rental overlay district” (STVROD) inside the new zoning code. The district, as drawn, encompasses all the island’s West Finish, which is a well-liked space for vacationers and consists of the group’s public seashores.

On the East Finish, nevertheless, the STVROD consists of only some areas alongside Bienville Boulevard and inside a few neighborhoods close to our bodies of water surrounding the island.

A lot of the East Finish’s residentially zoned areas could be off-limits to short-term leases.

It’s that restriction placing the most important concern amongst property house owners who hire out to guests. The city at the moment doesn’t regulate short-term housing inside its zoning code.

“What annoys me is that I’ve a enterprise license that the city granted to us, we pay lodging taxes to the city and the state, and that is already regulated,” stated Potts. “It’s not prefer it’s the Wild West. If there are issues, they’ve the instruments.”

The creation of the STVROD, in keeping with the proposed zoning code change, is to “defend the everlasting residents and their high quality of life and property values and implement rationally primarily based, fairly tailor-made laws to make sure the integrity and residential ambiance of the neighborhoods are protected.”

The ordinance defines a short-term rental as a brief lodging lodging for lodging that doesn’t exceed six months. Lengthy-term leases, that are greater than six months, will stay being allowed anyplace on the island.

The ordinance additional restricts the variety of automobiles parked at a short-term rental to 5, requires a enterprise license and a $75 annual rental charge for every dwelling unit that’s rented.

Dauphin Island Metropolis Councilman Earle Connell, who’s the council’s liaison to the Planning Fee, stated the modifications are meant “to have steadiness” in Dauphin Island, between the residents and vacationers.

“We’ve had a variety of complaints,” he stated. “One group will say they’re renting out (their home) and the following factor is you’ve eight vehicles parked everywhere in the yards. To them, it’s a trip. I perceive that. However these individuals who try this don’t perceive we’ve got a group and neighborhood that’s protected.”

He added, “It’s completely different from the West Finish, which is solar and enjoyable and eating places.”

West Finish woes

Dauphin Island

A automobile drives via a flooded road from Tropical Storm Gordon on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 in Dauphin Island, Ala. (AP Picture/Dan Anderson)AP

The proposal can also be regarding as a result of it emphasizes the West Finish as a Floor Zero for the Island’s tourism at a time when tropical storms are inflicting havoc on its seashores.

It’s additionally making a public relations concern locally due to the frequent flooding that happens close to the West Finish Seashore every time a powerful storm happens.

The West Finish Seashore was closed for seven months after struggling hurricane harm from Sally and Zeta in 2020 and didn’t reopen till 150,000 cubic yards – washed ashore throughout the storms – was faraway from roadways and the seashore’s car parking zone.

“It’s very weak to climate and different occasions,” stated Councilman Gene Fox, a Realtor and former enterprise proprietor on Dauphin Island. “Even our complete plan says we must always take some our financial density and get it off of the West Finish of Dauphin Island.”

He added, “Banning short-term leases on the East Finish of Dauphin Island runs opposite to that. In all of those occasions, the West Finish is flooded and its weeks or months the place massive sections are unavailable (to vacationers) due to the cleanup. There may be nowhere else for the parents to remain. There isn’t any different business on Dauphin Island, like a manufacturing unit to go work in. That’s actually the place the roles come from is the tourism business.”

Collier, the city’s mayor, stated he understands the considerations about directing vacationers to an space of Dauphin Island the place flooding is probably going every time there’s a tropical system.

He stated that 95% of the homes on the West Finish are rental properties and that “on any given day, they’re stuffed.”

“We discover that most individuals in that space are visiting from different elements of the county,” he stated. “They’ve little or no data of these native situations. That places a burden on the group. You want outreach and to get forward of the system and it’s worthwhile to transfer your automobiles to larger floor. So, yeah, it does create a burden in town and our rental businesses.”

Potts stated what usually occurs is that unsuspecting vacationers could have their vehicles broken.

“West Finish has a fame … a foul fame,” she stated. “The Island is subsiding. It goes underwater.”

‘We don’t need you’

Potts stated the city additionally has a fame for being supported by the federal authorities and referred to a 2019 article by the Yale College of the Setting entitled, “On the Alabama Coast, the Unluckiest Island in America.”

The article detailed the many years of hurricane harm to the Island and estimates the city has gotten at the very least $100 million in federal help over the 12 months. That, in keeping with the article, works out to round $170,000 for every of the island’s estimated 1,200 year-round residents.

“Dauphin Island has this vibe in that there’s a group of people that need the general public off the seashore,” stated Potts. “That is an extension of that … a way that the locals belong right here, and the guests don’t. However once you take into consideration the hundreds of thousands of {dollars} of federal subsidies that goes into Dauphin Island, it will get problematic to inform vacationers that “we don’t need you.’”

Connell stated that isn’t the case. He stated that residents don’t oppose the short-term rental business, however they do have considerations about its location.

“We rely on tourism and a family-friendly, protected place to reside,” he stated. “It’s enterprise for individuals who need to make investments on the West Finish.”

He stated that residents merely are not looking for the island to “change into like Gulf Shores” or Orange Seashore, that are the highest trip locations in Alabama.

“An increasing number of persons are coming from the North, and they aren’t shopping for only one home, however a number of heaps and are placing homes on them and placing Vrbo’s in our neighborhoods,” he stated. “That’s a horrible invasion. I don’t try this of their neighborhood in Pennsylvania and we don’t them doing that down right here.”

Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island, Ala., is a well-liked place for beachbound vacationers. However the guests are inflicting alarm for some residents who’re pushing for the city to ban short-term leases from popping up in a lot of the group’s East Finish. (file picture).

Dauphin Island will not be grappling with something that different seashore resort cities haven’t already needed to handle.

In 2018, Orange Seashore metropolis officers handed an ordinance banning property house owners from renting their houses for something lower than two weeks. The ban utilized to solely house owners of single-family residential properties and was issued to curb noise and trash complaints.

The town additionally created a “Trip Rental” inside its ordinances that limits the place short-term leases can find.

Gulf Shores adopted short-term rental laws in 2009, limiting the apply to an overlay district. The ordinance was revised in 2018, to additional limit the place short-term rental items can find.

Baldwin County doesn’t have an ordinance in place regulating short-term leases, which suggests the favored seashore space of Fort Morgan will not be confronted with limitations on the place they’ll find.

Different adjoining states are extra restrictive on how far native governments can go in regulating the business.

In Florida, state legislation already prohibits native governments from passing ordinance outlawing trip leases. However state lawmakers, lately, have pitched laws that might forestall native governments from licensing and inspecting leases.

In Tennessee, a decide appointed by the state’s Supreme Court docket, dominated final 12 months that town of Hendersonville’s ordinance banning short-term leases in residential neighborhoods was unconstitutional.

Course of awaits

For now, Collier stated he’s hopeful that residents and short-term rental operators are conscious that not imminent selections are looming on the proposed zoning modifications or with the creation of restrictions on short-term leases.

He stated that it may very well be “60 to 90 days” earlier than the difficulty even comes earlier than the total Dauphin Island Metropolis Council for consideration. Extra public hearings will happen, he stated.

A minimum of one group, the newly shaped Dauphin Island Alabama STR Proprietor Affiliation, is holding off on making a press release.

Justin Warren, a Birmingham resident who owns three properties that might be affected below the proposed ordinance, instructed this week that “we really feel we have to adhere to the method afforded to us.”

“Everybody has time to debate this and talk about it correctly,” stated Warren.

Collier stated the complete zoning code nonetheless wants some work earlier than it goes earlier than the council for consideration. An govt abstract, which will likely be supplied by the South Alabama Regional Planning Fee, is predicted earlier than the code is handed out of the Planning Fee earlier than it strikes to the Metropolis Council for a remaining consideration.

“It’s been a little bit of a buzzsaw and we’re getting a variety of emails every single day with folks expressing execs and cons,” Collier stated concerning the short-term rental part of the proposal. “I inform folks, ‘Of us, that isn’t the one change within the doc.’ There are a selection of pretty important modifications as nicely that will even want consideration.”

He added, “However it is a large change if we do that. Up till now and together with now, we don’t handle in any respect the place short-term leases go. When you have a house on the island, you possibly can hire it. Nothing prohibits it. That is one thing very new.”