Highlands’ ordinance perplexing and illogical
To the Editor:
The ordinance recently passed by Highlands’ Town Council, on its face, clearly violates the law of the State of North Carolina. Below is an excerpt from the North Carolina Vacation Rental Act that was signed into law by Gov Cooper on July 1, 2019:
“… cities and counties are not authorized to do any of the following, among other things: Adopt or enforce any ordinance that would require any owner or manager of rental property to obtain any permit or permission from the local government to lease or rent residential real property or to register rental property with the local government.”
This board has blatantly and recklessly dismissed the advice of the N.C. School of Government. They have ignored the legal advice of at least two reputable land use attorneys, including their own hired outside legal counsel. They completely scrapped and dismissed the proposal set forth by the Town of Highlands Planning Board — the only officials who attempted to mediate instead of unnecessarily squandering taxpayer dollars on legal fees.
In addition, Commissioner Patterson made it abundantly clear that spending in excess of $200,000 of taxpayer money is a worthwhile use of taxpayer funds that could be better spent on items such as workforce housing solutions. Finally, after months of deliberation and awaiting a verdict in Schroeder v. Wilmington, the town completely disregarded the judge’s ruling and decided to rush through an overreaching and invalid ordinance with no public comment. The entire thing is illogical and perplexing.
Jennifer Huff, Save Highlands Member
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Highlands never had a study completed that would have shown the economic impact their banning of short term rentals would have. They completely ignored the largest hotel, Old Edwards Inn, support of STRs. Their manager stated that Old Edwards can only allot a small number of rooms for the weddings they host. Without STRs they would be unable to host the number of wedding guests that attend the events in Highlands. The great majority of all hotel rooms in Highlands are owned & operated by Old Edwards Inn.
My wife and I rent our house to guests for about 25-30% of the year. These are wedding guests, family reunion attendees, anniversary celebrating couples, mountain visitors. The majority of our guests stay 4 nights. Most are middle aged not college students. They spend their money in Highlands shops and restaurants. If the town’s ban on Short Term Rentals is enforced, it won’t cause a financial burden on our family. But there are some STR owners whose ability to pay their mortgage payments is dependent on being able to rent their property.