Unanimous approval has been given for the proposed new ordinance relating to “home sharing” in Lookout Mountain, Ga. Public meetings were held to get residents’ views on June 13 and July 11, after which a draft of the proposal was sent to the planning commission, which fine-tuned it. At the city council meeting on July 27, additional changes were suggested and approved. City Attorney Bill Pickering will now write the ordinance in a final form.
The proposed ordinance requires that the homeowner live on site and be present throughout the visitors’ stays. The stay can be no longer than seven days, and the maximum occupancy is three people per bedroom, or a total of six people in the house. No food or alcohol can be served. Other conditions require the homeowner obtain a business license and home-sharing permit and pay hotel/motel taxes to the city. No signs are allowed and there must be adequate parking.
The permit process will require a review before the city council, and the homeowners must sign an affidavit stating they will comply with all the rules and regulations. The council will recommend issuing no more than 15 permits. A “sunset clause” will apply so that the council must choose to renew the ordinance allowing the short term rentals beyond the first year. Additionally, the arrangement can be terminated by the council at any time.
Currently, the hotel/motel tax is 3 percent, and the city can determine how to use that money. The council agreed to raise that tax to 5 percent. The revenue is estimated to be $24,000 for next year. That additional 2 percent will be used for tourist related activities and can be spent to build trails, sidewalks and parks.
Mayor David Bennett recommended raising the millage rate for fiscal year 2018 from the current amount of 9.050 to 9.35. This tax increase would generate an additional $16,000 for the city.
The mayor told the council that the Ironman 70.3 will be held in Chattanooga September 9-10. The route will bring more than 3,000 participants up Lookout Mountain on Ochs Highway to Red Riding Hood Trail. A block party is being organized at the top of Red Riding Hood, and he is hoping for community support.
Mayor Bennett has been interviewing architects to design the new Town Center and expects to announce his choice at the August 17 council meeting, after which the plan will begin to move forward. He also told the council members that according to the website Niche.com, Lookout Mountain, Ga., has been ranked the 16th safest city in the state of Georgia. More good news for the town is that the inventory of homes for sale is at an all-time low, and prices are up, according to the mayor. Additionally, there are five new houses under construction.
The sewer board will end the fiscal year 2017 just slightly in the black, board member Wes Hasden told the council. Several capital projects will be undertaken in 2018, including replacing “wet well” walls that are crumbling. A couple of pump stations will be added, and a main line on Fleetwood Drive will be repaired to improve the flow of sewage down the mountain.
Councilmember Taylor Watson informed the council about details of the car thefts and break-ins that took place several weeks ago. The vehicles that were taken had been left unlocked, some with keys and wallets inside. A week after two vehicles were stolen, two men came back up the mountain in one of the stolen cars. The pair was apprehended by the coordinated work of the Georgia and Tennessee police departments acting on a call from a neighbor who was alerted by her dog barking and then seeing a strange car parked in her driveway at 3 a.m.
Lookout Mountain, Ga. Police Officer Derrick Forrester and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. Officer Don Massengale were credited for apprehending the men involved. Officers Aaron Dean from Georgia and Tanner Clark from Tennessee were the investigating officers in the case. Identification was made from images captured by the surveillance cameras that are positioned at each entrance into the towns. Ms. Watson warned all residents to lock car doors and remove valuables. Cars that are left unlocked with keys inside may not be covered by insurance, she said.
The next council meeting is Thursday, August 17 a 5:30 p.m.