Planning commission approves special exception for guesthouse; begins discussion on new standards for short-term rentals in Natchez

Published 1:38 pm Friday, January 20, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez planning commission on Thursday approved a special exception for Toni Thompson to use 715 State St. as a guesthouse.

Thompson, who lives in the New Orleans area, has a contract to purchase that property from Garden Song LLC, a company owned by Mayor Dan Gibson.

Realtor Marla Toman Gibson is the agent for the sale.

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Gibson told planning commissioners Thompson is no stranger to home renovations with an eye toward historic preservation. She has experience renovating homes in the New Orleans area.

Alma Carpenter, who said she lives on State Street, objected to the special exception for the guesthouse, saying parking was not adequate. However, commissioners decided the street has ample room for on-street parking.

Carpenter also claimed the commission was showing favoritism because the property is being sold by Gibson.

The only other item on the commission’s agenda was the consideration of adding a new section to the city’s code governing property use, which would set standards for short-term rentals.

“Right now, we only have two options. Either you are a B&B, which is a residence that has a live-in manager, or a guesthouse, which has an off-site manager, or someone who comes in and checks the guests in. Basically, with a guesthouse, (guests) rent the whole house,” said Butch Johnson, planning commission member.

“Those are the only two options we have right now. However, because of the extreme demand in our world today from people who are traveling, largely because of COVID, Frankie (Legaux, city planner) thinks we need to add a section governing short-term rentals,” Johnson said.

“It could be that it never passes and we keep the two categories we have. There is so much abuse of this through VRBO and Airbnb. These people who are renting out their homes aren’t getting permits. We are getting complaints from neighbors about issues with some who have rented out their house. Our goal is to address this piracy and make it to where people will comply,” Johnson said. “We have no control if people don’t comply. The idea is if we have a better set of regulations, the better the compliance and the neighborhood will be happy. That’s the goal, to try to avoid conflicts and complaints.”

The planning commission moved to table the issue and will bring it up again at another meeting.

The next planning commission meeting is Feb. 16 at 5:15 p.m. at the Council Chambers, 115 S. Pearl St., across from City Hall.