No budging BOMA

Short-term rentals still to be banned despite Roche plea

For the second time in as many weeks, Jennifer Roche, governmental affairs director for the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors, was unsuccessful in asking Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen not to ban short-term rentals within Town limits.

The Board was considering, on second reading, an ordinance banning the process during its regular twice-monthly meeting Thursday, June 27. Roche supplied information before the June 13 meeting on how the City of Knoxville is handling the process, then during the June 27 meeting she shared survey results from KAAR Realtor members regarding the practice.

“We wanted to see where our membership was [regarding short-term rentals],” Roche said. “They were split 50-50, but we did another survey, and over 70 percent of the Realtor members who lived in Farragut thought short-term rentals should be allowed.

“What I am here to ask is that you don’t vote on this tonight because I don’t feel you are fully informed.”

Roche also asked the Board to postpone the vote until it could “get more community input.”

When Alderman Scott Meyer asked if hotel owners had been polled, Roche responded that while it might seem hotel owners would oppose short-term rentals, “the truth is a little more nuanced than that,” she said. “Short-term rentals are priced a lot lower than hotels, but it is also marketed to a different clientele.”

“I can tell you where I stand on the issue,” Meyer said. “I don’t support it based on conversations I have had with hotel owners and residents.”

Vice Mayor Louise Povlin told Roche she is “open to it being considered at a future date,” and said even before the ordinance was voted on, the Town “didn’t allow it, by omission. But I would be open to having discussions about it.”

“I totally respect the discussion, and I want and hope you will make it a larger discussion at a later date,” Roche said.

Alderman Drew Burnette said he had talked over the issue with his wife.

“When Uber came out, I thought it was stupid,” he said. “But look how that has gone. I wouldn’t use anything else. And I look at this issue and think, ‘is this the Uber of the next couple of years?’

“And that may be, but it’s not a good fit for our Town right now. In two years, it might be different, especially if we get our entertainment district going,” Burnette added.

“I appreciate the dialog and respect the decision,” Roche said, but then she “booed,” perhaps playfully, when the roll call vote unanimously approved the ordinance.

In other business:

• BOMA voted unanimously to approve a professional services agreement for construction drawings to renovate Town Hall restroom facilities.

Town administrator David Smoak said restroom additions are necessary at Town Hall, because when the building was constructed in the early 1990s it was not ADA compliant.

Smoak said plans have been suggested that would create three unisex bathrooms, but nothing was final or permanent.

He also said it would not be the last ADA compliance project necessary at Town Hall, but the bathrooms “will be the biggest and most expensive.”

• Mayor Ron Williams appointed Scott Russ to Farragut Municipal Planning Commission.

Russ will fill the vacancy left when former member Ed Whiting retired in June following 12 years of service.