Aldermen set public hearing date for new short-term rental ordinance

Published 11:06 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to advertise for a public hearing for its June 13 meeting to gather input on a proposed new short-term rental ordinance.

The ordinance sets rules and regulations for city guesthouses or other short-term rentals to be at most 30 days in length.

The city’s planning commission approved the new ordinance at its May meeting.

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The new short-term rental guidelines would not apply to bed and breakfast establishments in the city, which are governed under separate ordinances.

City Planner Frankie Legaux also asked the aldermen to set a moratorium on new guesthouses or other short-term rental applications until the aldermen either approve or deny the new regulations. The aldermen approved that request.

Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson, who has been in the bed and breakfast business in the past, said he wanted to make certain Natchez citizens have ample time to read and digest the proposed ordinance.

While Gibson no longer owns a bed and breakfast in the city, he does own a guesthouse, so he recused himself when aldermen were voting on the issue, as did Ward 3 Aldermen Sarah Carter Smith, who said she owns a property that may be used as a guesthouse in the future.

“Many communities are deciding they need these ordinances,” Gibson said. He said the City of Laurel has “a very good ordinance, and that’s what lots of this one is based on.”

Gibson also said he spoke recently with Robert “Bobee” Leake, mayor of St. Francisville, Louisiana, who told him St. Francisville recently passed a very restrictive short-term rental ordinance that does not allow them in many areas of the town.

“We have people who have come in and invested money in good faith here, and I want to be very respectful of them,” Gibson said. “Some of them are absentee owners, but they are doing a really beautiful job of maintaining properties with proper management that just a couple of years ago were vacant. They are bringing a lot of people into our city on a daily and weekly basis who are attending our events and enjoying our city. We don’t want to close the door on tourism in a city that thrives on tourism as our number one industry.”

At the same time, it is unfair for hotels operating and abiding by specific regulations to compete with a guesthouse that does not.

“If neighbors are very sensitive to having this in their community, we need to have a process because I do believe anyone in Natchez should have some say in their neighborhood and what’s next door or down the street from them,” the mayor said. “I am just addressing these issues while we are in the discussion phase because these are important questions I have been asked, and I have to answer these. It’s too important for us to rush through.”

He asked that the short-term rental ordinance be placed on the city’s website and available for anyone wanting to read it.

“I want anyone who has any concern to feel free to reach out to me or any of us,” Gibson said, indicating the aldermen.

Some of the short-term ordinance regulations include:

• no large parties or events are allowed in the short-term rental. “If they have friends here and invite them over for dinner or a movie, that’s fine. But we do not want any large-scale parties regularly.

• the ordinance includes quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., where no noise should be able to be heard by nearby neighbors.

• the guesthouse must be registered annually.

• maximum occupancy is two persons per bedroom plus an additional two persons per house. A person is considered anyone over 1 year of age, Legaux said.