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Chattanooga’s City Council’s short-term vacation rental ordinance fails in final reading

From Local 3 News: An awkward silence filled the City Council room for the final reading of the ordinance that would restrict short-term renta

From Local 3 News: An awkward silence filled the City Council room for the final reading of the ordinance that would restrict short-term rentals in Chattanooga. After no motion was brought to the floor to begin the voting process on Tuesday, the ordinance failed.


“I expected it to go down in flames, and it did,” says Chip Henderson, co-sponsor of the ordinance. “I guess we didn’t have enough courage to to put a motion out on the floor tonight.”


Henderson, District 1 Councilman, says he’s disappointed the ordinance failed. He says he has been working for several months, gathering input from fellow councilmembers.

In last week’s meeting, an amendment was approved to increase the “buffer zone,” a restriction for the distance between absentee rental properties in single-family areas. The ordinance called for a distance of 500 ft., but Councilwoman Marvene Noel suggested a 1,000 ft. buffer zone. This was approved.


“To get to this point and not even garner of a motion is is pretty disappointing,” says Henderson.


Those in favor hoped the move would limit the number of vacation rentals in their districts. Those opposed, Henderson included, argued the distance would effectively shut the business down.


He says short-term vacation rentals bring tax dollars into the Scenic City. But, to move forward, the council’s next step may be to look back.


“I think maybe we’re going to reconsider pretty much the proposal that was presented in November to see if that could get five votes,” he says.

The mayor’s chief of staff authored that proposal, which several council members opposed. It would take short-term vacation rentals city-wide and place them in any zone that allows a motel.


“They’re more interested in having hotels in Chattanooga than they are having actual local Chattanooga businesses like we are,” says local realtor Brad Wardlaw.


He expected the ordinance would be approved on Tuesday night. He says he is concerned there will be more restrictions on the industry.


“Our next step as a group will be to wait and see what happens,” sayd Wardlaw. “Then, potentially, look at filing legal action against the city of Chattanooga and the mayor’s office.”


For now, Wardlaw says he will keep doing what he’s doing. He says legal action depends on the restrictions of the ordinance.

Henderson says a compromise needs to be made between the residents and short-term vacation rental owners.


“Our parents stayed at the Holiday Inn,” says Henderson. “We’re sort of a transitional generation. Our kids will stay in short term vacation rentals and they’re not going away.”