FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A group representing short-term renters has filed suit against Forsyth County arguing that new zoning restrictions violate the rights of property owners.
The suit, filed in State Court, claims the county overreached when it passed amendments to its Unified Development Code banning the operations in residentially zoned areas. The code does provide for operations lying within areas zoned for agriculture or agriculture-residential, lots generally much larger than those in residential areas. Still, even these operations must obtain a conditional use permit.
“Forsyth County’s attempt to eliminate the vested rights of property owners will not go unchallenged,” said Pam O’Dell, executive director for the Short Term Rental Owners Association of Georgia, which filed the suit.
In addition, a separate lawsuit has been filed by other plaintiffs involved with Forsyth County Vacation Rentals in the Federal District Court of North Georgia demanding injunctive and declaratory relief on constitutional grounds.
Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard said this week that the county is aware of the litigation but would not comment on the matter further.
Rumblings of a pending lawsuit rang out April 18 when the County Commission voted 3-2 to pass the new restrictions. Opponents to the legislation told commissioners then that the board’s action violated their rights, and they would seek redress in the courts.
The battle over short-term rentals has gone on for more than two years in Forsyth County, which includes miles of shoreline along Lake Lanier.
“Vacation rental homes offered through services such as Airbnb and VRBO are the only overnight lakefront accommodations for vacationers who want to stay on the Forsyth County side of Lake Lanier,” said Al Webster, Forsyth County Chapter chair of STROAGA. “The recent ban on short-term rentals in Forsyth will mean many tourists will be forced to find other places to spend their vacations. Visitors to the Forsyth County side of Lake Lanier will need to leave by sundown.”
Proponents of the clampdown, however, have argued that short-term rentals are a business and should not be allowed in neighborhoods zoned for residential.
The county estimates about 250 properties within its boundaries are operating as short-term rentals, a classification defined as residences leased to tenants for fewer than 30 days.