Sometimes a little graciousness goes a long way.
When Kelly Wood, owner of a local mission house in Dothan, expressed concerns about new short-term rental property ordinances, the Dothan City Commission decided to delay passing the regulations.
One proposed ordinance would require owners of short-term rental properties commonly listed on sites like Airbnb to pay a license tax and obtain a business license for each short-term rental address owned. Another ordinance would require short-term rental property owners to obtain liability insurance with "minimum limits of $500,000 per occurrence and $1 million aggregate."
While assuring the meeting that she understood and even supported the intentions of the ordinances, Wood expressed that they felt "like a little bit of overreach" and that certain requirements would "more than double" her current insurance plan.
"I know you're trying to keep our city nice," Wood said. "Make sure people are behaving and that people are managing their properties. I do understand all that, and I'm on board with that. I'm even on board with the licensing and the lodging tax. That's fine with me, but when you get to the meat of it, and you read everything … y'all are dictating what kind of insurance we have to have. I feel like that's a little bit of overreach. We don't tell y'all what kind of limits you need on your car insurance. That ought to be up to an individual to decide, in my opinion."
Wood said she fully understands "y'all trying to have a list of who owns what and who is where so that you can make sure properties are managed."
"I do understand that," Wood said. "As far as dictating to us what kind of insurance limits we need and things like that, it just feels like a little bit extra. Maybe that part of it can be revisited and amended, and we can keep the licensing and the taxing."
Wood said her situation was "different than other short-term rental owners," and she's "not in this to make a fortune" by owning a single short-term rental property.
"I'm in this to have a house really for a ministry," Wood said. "The only reason we would rent it at all short-term [for] Airbnb is to generate enough income to put people in there when they have medical needs when they're here from outlying areas, and they have a patient in the hospital that's had a heart surgery, and their family needs to be here for two weeks. Patients on the cancer floor … they're getting treatments, [and] their family needs to be here for a week or two at a time."
Wood said she's "trying to meet a need in our city, but your extra regulations are making it harder for a small person like me who doesn't own multiple properties, so that's my concern."
"My son was born extremely early, weighing one pound and five ounces," Wood said. "We lived in a mission house like this in Birmingham for four months, completely free of charge. It's been on my heart ever since that time to be able to do this."
Todd McDonald, Dothan Director of Planning & Development, said the ordinances on the short-term rental properties were based on research in other jurisdictions.
"These are the insurance limits that they carry in their ordinances," McDonald said.
The ordinances define "short-term rentals" as owner or non-owner occupied dwellings or rooms that are rented for no longer than 30 consecutive days.
"I'd personally like to have a little more discussion on this," John Ferguson, Dothan City Commissioner, said. "There's been some new questions raised this morning that we haven't considered."
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