Debate heating up on short-term rentals issue

The Biloxi City Council this week voted to deny a short-term rental request for a unit in a front beach condominium, a decision that is the first of 18 cases involving short-term rental requests working their way through the zoning process.

In fact, councilmembers are awaiting a Biloxi Planning Commission citywide review of appropriate locations for future short-term rentals.

At issue: Residents complaining about disruption to their homes or nearby condo units vs. the rights of developers and investors in what some see as a burgeoning market.

“Short-term rental has become a very controversial issue, especially in the multi-family zones,” said Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel. “The interest we’re seeing today can be traced back to 2010, when the Land Development Ordinance was changed to allow short-term rentals in condos and apartment complexes — as a conditional use. This means that the applicant must comply with certain conditions; Planning Commission and City Council approval are also required.”

Added Creel: “In commercial zones, short-term rentals are allowed without a conditional use. No short-term rentals are allowed in single-family residential zones. The whole purpose is to protect the property rights of all.”

The issue on Tuesday involved a host of residents who live in or near the 48-unit Cypress Cove, a front beach apartment complex that was converted to condominiums vs. owners of the Cypress Cove development and those who have bought units with idea of marketing them as short-term rentals.

Said Creel: “Anyone buying property, whether it’s for a short-term rental, or for a home or any business, for that matter, should do their due-diligence. Check with the city before entering into any contract or contract negotiations. Check on zoning and be sure what’s allowed and not allowed.”

The short-term rental issue, buoyed by online sales and marketing, has become an option for those travelers whom operators say favor a bed-and-breakfast setting over a hotel. Tracking and regulating the short-term rentals — making sure zoning allows the operation and that appropriate taxes are paid — can be a challenge for city, county and state officials, who all share a level of oversight.

For instance, some city officials believe that online services could boast as many as dozens, if not hundreds, of short-term rentals operating in Biloxi, but the city has issued only 16 permits for short-term rentals. Those advertising online have also become savvy in hiding the true locations of their short-term rental. And hoteliers, who face a gamut of taxes and regulations, question whether operators are paying Coliseum, tourism and sales taxes, and if their property receives a homestead exemption, a tax break that is supposed to be reserved for owner-occupied dwellings.
See the regulations on short-term rentals
Map: Short-term rentals, where and where not
Video: See the Council meeting (short-term rental discussion at 39:35 and 1:18:22)
Photos: See images from the Council meeting
See addresses of permitted short-term rentals


News & notes: Weekly reports, Popp’s Ferry, gaming, podcast

Weekly reports: So what happened in Biloxi last week? You can find a great deal in the weekly reports from the Biloxi Police, Fire, Community Development and Engineering departments. To see the archive, topped by last week’s report, click here.

Gaming numbers: The city’s Finance Division has issued the new monthly report that tracks state gaming tax collections from Biloxi casinos and how that money is divvied up among state and local agencies. To see the report, click here.

Dann the Man: City contractor Dann Balius Welding and Iron Works made quick work of the repairs to the steel deck at the Popp’s Ferry bridge this morning. To see the photos, click here.

Podcast: Kay Miller of the city’s Downtown Services Division and director of Main Street Biloxi is the guest on this week’s City Desk podcast. To listen to the program, click here.