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Cornelius News

NC poised to strike down short-term rental regulations

Photo by Dave Yochum

Cornelius may be a prime destination for users of Vrbo and Airbnb

Short-term vacation home rentals could return to Cornelius as early as next year if the North Carolina General Assembly undoes the so-called Cornelius Bill which outlawed them.

That’s a good thing, or bad, depending on whom you ask.

There’s a demand for short-term vacation rentals in Cornelius, both on the host side and the guest side. “Lake Norman is a tremendous destination,” said Cornelius real estate broker Elise A. Redmond.

In the early 2010s, the town passed an ordinance barring short-term rentals. After the law was challenged in court, town officials in 2014 asked the NC General Assembly to codify the town’s ability to “establish and enforce zoning regulations” for vacation rentals. (That bill, SB 859, specific to Cornelius, will expire at the end of this year.)

National firms such as Airbnb and Vrbo have been lobbying in Raleigh ever since.

“Individual towns should be empowered to decide this issue based on their own circumstances, rather than a state-mandated one-size-fits all,” said Town Commissioner Michael Miltich.

The issue is complex

There are several different types of short-term rental options ranging from bed and breakfast operations to entire homes and condos.


Then too, the new Art District downtown will need to be considered, Miltich said.

The Land Development Code Advisory Board has struggled several times to reach a consensus recommendation, he added.

“Cornelius would prefer for it to be our solution and not have that ability taken away by the General Assembly,” Miltich stated.

Vacation rentals in Cornelius

The initial thrust for vacation home rentals in Cornelius began a dozen years ago, when some property owners, including one in particular down Jetton Road, began renting out resort-like homes for short periods of time. When they were boisterous party rentals, neighbors took the matter to the Town Board

The town soon passed an ordinance barring short-term rentals. After the law was challenged in court, Cornelius officials convinced the General Assembly to codify the town’s ability to “establish and enforce zoning regulations” for vacation rentals. This measure passed 154-5 in 2014.


Meanwhile, Airbnb and Vrbo became worldwide phenomenons, allowing hosts to welcome paying guests into their homes. Some 4 million hosts are registered with Airbnb.

“We understand that a home is the biggest investment that a person or family will make in their lifetime. Maintaining the value of that home and protecting our citizens’ quality of life are of utmost importance to the Town. We hope everyone involved will consider this side of the equation as we move forward,” said Deputy Town Manager Wayne Herron.

Proposal in Raleigh

The changes being considered in North Carolina would ban short-term rental limits and are contained in a broadly based piece of legislation known as HB 829. The legislation defines what cities and towns can and can’t do to control vacation rentals, and would apply statewide.

The issue pits the rights of property owners against, you guessed it, the rights of other property owners. Those who own investment units can earn income—or just help pay their mortgage—while their neighbors want peace and quiet, not beer cans in their driveways.

On the legislative side of things, local concerns are focused on the impact on neighborhoods, licensing and/or fees, enforcement, restrictions on the number allowed per area.


All over the state, North Carolina cities passed restrictions, including requiring that hosts live in the homes they rent to outright bans.

Asheville requires that homeowners get a permit; Wilmington implemented a lottery for hosts in high-demand areas.

The short-term rental business is big business. According to ipropertymanagement.com, 600,000 Americans rent out their homes or private properties to short-term guests.

The average rental price at popular destinations is $186 per night for a single or 2-person rental.

But there are limits to what a local government may do when it comes to regulation of any business or any endeavor on private property. If HB 829 becomes law, it will change how the business operates statewide in cities that have restrictions.

HB 829 places some town officials on the opposite side of their state GOP representatives, who voted for the measure.

The House vote on the proposed legislation, taken May 11, was 66-45 in favor, and all but two Republican representatives voted in favor of the bill.

NC Rep. John Bradford, a Republican who owns a property management firm in Cornelius, voted in favor of the bill.

Cornelius Mayor Woody Washam wants to keep things the way they are.

“As a unique town with nearly 75 miles of shoreline on Lake Norman, we strongly feel this additional protection is needed and have asked our state representatives to assist us.” Washam said.

NC Sen. Natasha Marcus, a Democrat from Davidson who represents Cornelius as well, sponsored legislation to extend the town’s local authority, as town officials had requested.

Not everywhere


Some neighborhoods, like The Peninsula, have stipulations in their covenants, codes and restrictions prohibiting short-term rentals. They’ll stand.

Denis Bilodeau is a town commissioner and the former president of the Peninsula Property Owners Association.

“Unfortunately, short term rental owners do not always control the behavior of their renters. I am hopeful that as a Town we can continue with our existing authority just as HOA CC&Rs help protect the quality of life within their communities,” Bilodeau said.