OCEAN SPRINGS -- Aldermen decided this week to stop issuing permits for short-term rentals under the new city law until they can agree on how opposition from neighbors can be resolved.
The 13 homes issued permits since July will be allowed to continue renting.
Short-term rentals are homes whose owners rent them out by the day or week. More than a dozen homeowners already were doing that before the city hammered out an ordinance in 2015 to govern them and collect sales tax.
Resident Cindy Britton's house at 215 Halstead Road had met Planning Commission and city requirements for short-term rental and was going before the aldermen in an appeal hearing Tuesday when a neighbor presented a petition with more than 20 names opposing the business.
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Jane Beaugez said neighbors are elderly or live alone and don't like the idea of different people coming and going from the house. She said they had seen cars from three states in the past week.
Britton, praised by Alderman Greg Denyer for making major improvements to her property, went before the board to say she had met all the permit requirements. The city planner agreed.
The place for opposition is at the Planning Commission hearing, officials said. The permit process includes sending certified letters to people living within 500 feet of the house, alerting the public with a yard sign, and a hearing before the Planning Commission.
Aldermen Matt McDonnell and John Gill, however, didn't like the situation. They said if that many neighbors opposed (40 percent, by Beaugez's estimate), they needed to have a voice.
McDonnell also said the issue of neighborhood opposition needed to be totally vetted before the city deals with at least two potentially controversial short-term
rentals in the works -- one in Cherokee Glen subdivision and one on East Beach belonging to Scott Walker, a well-know local figure, who announced in the Sun Herald he would be renting his house even though he hadn't applied for a permit.
Alderman-at-large Bobby Cox suggested a work session as soon as possible. McDonnell and Gill said they liked the idea of denying a permit if 40 percent of the neighborhood objected, because it's a "commercial business in a residential area."
Mayor Connie Moran expressed concern with that. Denyer asked how you determine 40 percent of a neighborhood, noting a densely populated area would involve lot more people than a large-lot area such as East Beach.
So it may take 30 people opposing in some areas, he said, but only two or three neighbors on East Beach.