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A plan to add a Short-Term Vacation Rental Overlay District (STVROD) to Dauphin Island is getting pushback from some property owners who say the plan would take away their rights as property owners. The town of Dauphin Island has been working on a new zoning ordinance for a year and a half. Although there are several changes proposed in the draft ordinance, the STVROD part of the draft is the one most people are talking about on the island.
The district would be the only area where short-term vacation rentals are allowed. Leanne Potts owns a vacation home in what is known as “The Trees” on Dauphin Island. The area is not included in the district. Potts, who is from Mobile, now lives in Atlanta full-time. She rents out her Dauphin Island home and said it is her plan to continue to rent until she retires and moves there. However, with the new zoning proposal, she would not be allowed to rent out her house after a 10-year grace period for current rentals in that area.
“My plan is to fight this,” said Potts. “I think this is a complete government overreach.”
Potts said she wants to see an economic plan on how the removal of some short-term rentals could impact the island because she believes the impact could be great.
Mayor Jeff Collier said that impact is a real possibility.
“It’s obvious to think that if you are going to prohibit or reduce the amount of rental properties on the island, that could have a negative effect on the other businesses like restaurants and souvenir shops,” Collier said. “…it’s about a head count. The more people you have on the island, the more opportunity a business owner is going to have to sell stuff.”
Potts also believes property values could decrease if the ordinance is approved.
“They’re taking my property rights away with very little information or facts or data,” said Potts. “I don’t think this is a data-driven decision.”
Furthermore, Potts said there are already ordinances in place that simply need to be enforced.
“They have tools in place that if there are problems with some of the short-term rentals, they have the tools in place to manage that,” said Potts. “They have a full-time police department. They have a building department. They have a safety inspector. They have all the tools. They are a town government. They are incorporated. They can manage this … We need to manage the development that’s happening, not outlaw the short-term rental people and say, ‘you guys are the problem’ because we are not the problem. They have rules on the books that they need to enforce.”
Collier said property owners like Potts are going to be impacted the most if the proposal is approved. He said he has heard from others with similar concerns.
“I talked to some of the rental agents on the island. Of course, they don’t like the idea,” said Collier. “And they brought up a lot of good points. They’re saying you know, ‘why just blanket cut all these out? Why can’t we manage these better? In other words, if they’re making too much noise, we have a nuisance ordinance, we have a noise ordinance, so we could apply that. If they’re trespassing on a neighbor’s property, there are trespass laws.'”
Collier said many rental agents believe the zoning amendment goes too far.
“There’s some merit in that as well and so it’s a tough thing,” said Collier. “There are some competing interests.”
Potts said a group of property owners plans to organize and hire a lawyer to see what they can do about the proposed ordinance.
The president of the Dauphin Island Property Owners Association, Domenic Carlucci, said he is still going through the ordinance. He said there have been some complaints by property owners on the East End of the island, in “The Trees” and in “The Village” areas, about renters.
“There have been complaints, I don’t know how many, but enough to create this situation that they’re looking into right now, about short-term rentals in that area,” said Carlucci. “There are disturbances in that area, people are out partying at night, and when those people bought there, they didn’t sign up for that.”
On the other hand, Carlucci said not as the president of the property owners, but personally, he would be disturbed if he bought a property for the purpose of renting it out, then that right was taken away from him.
As for her renters, Potts said she has never had any problems with issues brought up such as noise, parties, parking and more. She said she provides bicycles for her guests to take to the beach and has been vigilant in making sure her property is respected. She also said the East End provides a more quiet atmosphere for vacationers, they don’t have to pay as much, and they don’t have to worry as much about rain and storms.
Potts said her plan is to retire to Dauphin Island. She said that is part of the retirement plan for a lot of property owners in her area.
“I want to be able to control what I do with my property for the rest of my life,” Potts said. “I care about what’s going on and I care about Dauphin Island.”
The plan is being considered and changed at this point and property owners still have several opportunities to weigh in.
The project is currently at the Planning Commission level. The next step will be for the commission to vote on whether to send the draft to the Town Council. If the commission approves the draft and sends it to council, the council will then discuss the document, hold a public hearing, make any changes that they see fit, then vote on adopting the new zoning ordinance.
The next Planning Commission meeting will be on Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 5 p.m. at Town Hall. Residents are welcome to come to address the commission, although Collier said he didn’t think the issue would be voted on that soon.
Anyone who wants to have input is encouraged to email Town Clerk Wanda Sandagger at email@example.com.
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