Oxford City Council targets short-term rentals as unfair to disallowed businesses in R-1

·3 min read

Sep. 22—OXFORD — The city of Oxford will crack down on short-term rental properties as a potential new ordinance to regulate those properties is under development.

Mayor Alton Craft, with the agreement of Oxford City Council members, said in a recent meeting that those properties are considered businesses and as such cannot legally operate in zones where businesses are not allowed.

The properties in question are those that are rentable for 30 days or less and are usually acquired through sources such as Airbnb.

Craft said he, City Clerk Alan Atkinson, and Fire Chief Gary Sparks have found many properties being used that way in the city and "we need to end this problem or bring it under control."

Council President Chris Spurlin said after reviewing the data he was not aware there were so many of them.

"I thought we said a year ago if they were operating a business in a residential (R-1) neighborhood, it would be shut down," Spurlin said. "It's against our ordinances to run a business in an R-1 neighborhood. I don't see how you make exceptions."

Spurlin questioned how anyone could be operating a business where it is not allowed and be operating a business without a license.

"We're going to start work on that process [to shut them down]," Craft said. "I think initially we do that, but if we don't have [regulations] we need to have something."

Craft said Airbnb "just writes us a check [for tax purposes]."

"They won't tell us who owns the property," he said. "Chief Sparks went the extra mile and went out and found these properties."

Sparks said he went "riding around" guided by the properties listed on the website.

"Some of these places I would have never expected as being one of these properties," Craft said. "I couldn't believe where some of these are."

To allow short-term rentals to operate anywhere in Oford "opens the door to any other business that wants to move in next to you," Spurlin said. "I just don't see how we can start allowing businesses to open in R-1 zones. It would be an enforcement nightmare and then we'd be sued by other businesses where some are allowed to come in and others aren't."

Council members agreed with Craft to send notices to those found to be currently offering short-term rentals "they are in violation of the zoning codes" as city staff works on a potential ordinance and regulations.

OPD, school district agree on full time SROs

School Superintendent Dr. Shannon Stanley and Police Chief Bill Partridge told the council they have come to a budgetary agreement on funding six new officers who will serve as full-time school resource officers during the school year.

"I truly appreciate being in a city where we have a true partnership between the city and the schools," Stanley said.

"We would pay their salaries for the nine months of the school year and the chief's budget would cover the three summer months," Stanley said.

Stanley expressed appreciation for the officers who now assist with SRO duties, but added they are working "off of their regular shift and we can't always get them six hours a day or from beginning to end."

"We want to fund them through the city and want them to be Oxford police officers," she said. "We are presently ready to fund six — one at each campus for the nine-month school year during school hours. Our goal is to add at least one more, if not two, at the high school."

Partridge said the additional officers "will enhance some of the things we do in the summertime."