Have your say Thursday on short-term rental issue

The Biloxi Planning Commission, which in the past couple of weeks has seen 165 applications filed for short-term rentals, wants public input on where the vacation rentals should or shouldn’t be, and any other regulations that should be considered.

The commission will conduct a Public Hearing on the issue Thursday at 2 p.m. in the Community Development Department on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in downtown Biloxi.

A host of condominium owners — primarily from Villas at Ocean Club, Sea Breeze, Oak Shores and Chateau Le Grand — have filed applications as the city considers new regulations. While only 15 STRs are currently permitted in the city, online websites show hundreds could be operating in Biloxi.

Currently, city ordinance prohibits short-term rentals in single-family residential zones, permits them by right in almost all commercial zones, and permits them as a case-by-case basis in apartment and condominiums. All are required to have city permits. It will take about two weeks for the issue to reach the City Council for a vote, which could be as early as April 2, but more likely April 16.

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 for vacationers.

“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 latest issue erupted when a host of residents who live in or near the 48-unit Cypress Cove turned out at a City Council meeting. Cypress Cove is a front beach apartment complex that was converted to condominiums. The issue pitted owners of the Cypress Cove development and those who have bought units with idea of marketing them as short-term rentals vs. those who live in nearby residential areas.

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.

Exacerbating the issue is that those advertising online have 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

News & notes: Council video, week in review

Council video: To see an unedited video of the hour-long City Council meeting on Tuesday, published Tuesday night on the city’s YouTube channel, click here.

Week in review: So what happened in the city last week? To see the reports from the departments of Fire, Police, Community Development and Engineering, click here.