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Buncombe County Planning Board to hold 2 more short-term rental listening sessions

A screenshot from a listing on Airbnb in Buncombe County.
A screenshot from a listing on Airbnb in Buncombe County.

The Buncombe County Planning Board will hold two more listening sessions for members of the public to weigh in on short-term rentals, as officials mull whether to impose new restrictions.

The meetings, tentatively scheduled for March 18 and April 15, will be held at A-B Tech in Asheville. Further details will be made available later by the board.

The announcement comes amid an at-times heated debate over short-term rentals, a term describing residential stays of 30 days or less made through platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO. Hundreds of residents turned out for two previous listening sessions held in recent months.

The county planning board is considering allowing new short-term rentals only in commercial districts. The proposed rules would also limit each short-term rental property to a maximum of 4,000 square feet. Among other restrictions, short-term rentals would not be allowed in manufactured home parks or affordable housing developments.

The City of Asheville and other municipalities have their own rules on short-term rentals, so if adopted, the new Buncombe County restrictions would only apply to unincorporated parts of the county. Existing short-term rentals would be grandfathered into the new county restrictions.

Proponents of the proposed restrictions say short-term rentals have worsened the affordable housing crisis and contributed to gentrification in Buncombe County. Opponents say the restrictions would not help alleviate those problems and that short-term rentals provide an economic lifeline to property owners.

At their monthly work session Monday morning, members of the planning board agreed on a schedule for their work on the proposed restrictions going forward. The board will hold a meeting on March 4 to review potential changes to the text of the proposed restrictions. No public comment will be taken at that meeting.

On April 1, the proposed language will be finalized. And on a to-be-determined date after April 15, the board will introduce the proposed changes to the Buncombe County Commission.

The County Commission is expected to hold a public hearing on short-term rental restrictions – and potentially take action on the proposal – at some point after that meeting. A date has yet to be set.

Felicia Sonmez is a reporter covering growth and development for Blue Ridge Public Radio.