Athens City Council Approves BnB Zoning Changes

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After months of deliberation by city committees and the Athens City Council, amendments to the city code were approved to accommodate bed and breakfasts.

In third reading Monday night, council approved amendments to the municipal income tax code involving the “transient guest tax.”

The tax, which is 6 percent,  is taken out by any facility which allows paid overnight guests, such as hotels and motels. The conversation came to council after the tourism board raised concerns about not receiving the tax, and city residents raised concerns about homes being used for business, against the language of the code.

The code now states that bed and breakfasts will be allowed in R-3 and B zones within the city. R-3 includes multi-family homes and B zones are approved for business, according to Councilwoman Chris Fahl.

“This has nothing to do with R-1 or R-2 (zones),” said Fahl, who introduced the amendment ordinance. Those zones are specifically for residential use.

For the R-3 zoned residences, under the amendments, they must be owner-occupied or owner-managed for the code to apply, Fahl said. Bed and Breakfast permits are still required for those wanting to conduct that business from their property.

The new language to the code will also change the breakfast side of “bed and breakfast.”

“BnBs can serve breakfast but are not required to,” Fahl said.

The topic of online lodging site AirBnb was brought up, but Fahl said the company has not changed the way bed and breakfasts were run, just the way they were advertised.

“AirBnb is just a new way of marketing bed and breakfasts,” Fahl said. “It’s not like this magical subsection of bed and breakfasts.”

Fahl said committees within the city have worked hard to find a solution to the issue and will continue working to make sure residents are heard.

“We will work through this situation, so that people have their property rights…all respected and protected,” Fahl said.

Councilman Peter Kotses abstained from the vote on the amendments due to his ownership of commercial property.