Several weeks ago Ringgold Mayor Nick Millwood made a post on Facebook about zoning and short-term rentals. These are rentals of residential properties (most often single family homes) for less than 30 days. Airbnb and VRBO are two of the biggest platforms in the short-term rental business. Airbnb reports that 85% of the properties listed on their site are individually owned and often owner occupied.
There is a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance on the agenda for tonight’s Ringgold City Council meeting (Monday, Nov. 8). The current code makes no mention of short-term rentals like Airbnb. The closest classification in the current code is a bed and breakfast. The proposed amendment would establish a permit and oversight process. It would also restrict short-term rentals to only A-1 (agriculture) or R-3 (multi-family) zoning classes. This will effectively ban short-term rentals in the city of Ringgold.
There were over 300 comments on Mayor Millwood’s post, so it is clear the community has an interest in the topic. Several citizens commented in support of restrictions. Many cited fear of crime from short-term rentals or a desire to maintain the residential character of their neighborhood.
Rather than go into detail refuting any particular claim, I will instead put forward a few questions one hopes will be asked before the vote.
Given that there are no instances of a disturbance from a short-term rental and the fact that there is only one listing on Airbnb inside the city limits, why do this? Why restrict property rights to guard against an imagined threat?
Property rights are too often dismissed as not as important anymore or even denounced as a relic of a racist past. This is untrue. The right to property is as inalienable as the rights to life and liberty. Indeed liberty cannot exist without it. It seems far too many conservative voters and politicians have forgotten this fact.
Which brings me to a more important question. Do the members of the city council, the mayor and city staff believe that rights are conferred by the government?
The fundamental question here is whether property rights are granted by the government, or is the right to property on par with liberty? If the council members think that property owners are only allowed to do with their property that which is expressly permitted by government, then little ole Ringgold, Georgia, has somehow become a hardcore liberal progressive bastion surrounded by a sea of liberty-loving conservative voters.
Such a view of property rights might even make Ringgold a candidate to host the next the Democratic Socialist convention.