Understanding the proposed short-term rental text amendments in Buncombe County

Here’s what you need to know about the proposed changes for short-term rentals in the unincorporated areas of Buncombe County.

Panoramic view of Buncombe County

Learn about the proposed changes to prepare for tonight’s listening session.

Photo by @matty.media

Back in January, the Buncombe County Planning Board hosted a special listening session to hear public comment on the proposed text amendments to Buncombe County’s development ordinance related to short-term rentals (STRs). And if that already sounds complicated to you, don’t worry. We’re here to break down the county’s current regulations, proposed changes, and implementation process surrounding STRs — because another listening session is slated for tonight, March 18 at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium at 5:30 p.m.

A bit of background

The proposed changes for STR regulations come as part of the first step in implementing Buncombe County’s 2043 Comprehensive Plan, using guidance from the Growth, Equity, and Conservation chapter. That chapter focuses on increasing the number of affordable ownership and rental units.

Current regulations

The current zoning ordinance allows STRs (think Airbnbs and VRBOs) in all zoning districts except the airport district. STRs can be single or multi-family homes, basement apartments, garage apartments, or manufactured homes less than 9,000 sqft — they can be rented for between two and 29 days.

Proposed changes

The proposed changes will only apply to the unincorporated parts of Buncombe County, excluding Asheville and other municipalities, because the county doesn’t have the authority to change zoning regulations in incorporated municipalities.

Proposed changes include an updated definition of STR, development standards and prohibitions for new STRs, and more. Proposed standards include limiting STRs to commercial districts, reducing the maximum gross floor area of a single unit for a STR as well as regulations on parking, waste management, events, and more.

Some notable proposed prohibitions state that STRs cannot be in developments that receive county incentives, manufactured home parks, travel trailers, RVs, or similar residences.

While the proposed changes would apply to newly created STRs, existing rentals can continue operating under specific conditions. Owners must apply for a zoning permit to operate legally (and it must be renewed annually), and the unit must be rented for at least two nights for every period of 180 days.

The decision-making process

Let’s cover exactly how these changes would be implemented:

First, staff presented research and proposed changes to the Planning Board at public meetings. Then, the Planning Board hosts additional public meetings to discuss and request changes with the option for public comment (aka the stage we’re in now).

On Monday, April 22, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing to decide which changes to propose to the Buncombe County Commissioners. Commissioners will then review the recommended changes, request any additional info or changes, and hear public comment. The final step will be a public hearing held by the Buncombe County Commissioners, where they will decide whether to adopt the final version of the amendments.

Sharing your comments

The public can provide comments about the proposed amendments in person during tonight’s special listening session at A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. If you can’t make it to the session, you can also send an email with your thoughts — just note that the Planning Board is seeking input on the specifics of the proposed changes as opposed to general comments in support of or against the amendments.

You can also watch tonight’s session virtually through Engage Buncombe County or on Facebook.