The fear of out-of-town visitors is threatening a measure before Chattanooga city council that would ban Airbnb families from turning empty houses into havens for travelers. The proposed ban plays on fears that students like these at Girls Preparatory Schools are vulnerable to sexual abuse from neighbors if those neighbors let their houses through Airbnb. (Photo Grandmajeannesblog.blogspot.com)
Paranoia has infected school operators in or near a proposed short-term vacation rental district in a scheme by city council that would permit families to rent out their homes while they are away on vacation, but ban this form of entrepreneurialism for everyone outside the district.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 92.7 FM
Administrators of three schools are demanding the creation of “safety zones” around their facilities because not all visitors from other countries and cities share their morals and outlook.
The schools are St. Peter’s Episcopal school, St. Nicholas school and Girls Preparatory School. Autumn Graves of GPS said that she fears guests at rentals near the school just north of the Tennessee River “will have access to 12- and 13-year old girls who may not recognize the best people to be hospitable to.” She alleges that Airbnb and patrons of other similar online rental networks are involved in drugs, prostitution and sexual assault.
Proposal violates key legal protections
The proposal is illegal because it violates the American constitutional legal standard prohibiting arbitrary and capricious acts, and it is unenforceable because of the Tennessee constitution’s $50 fine rule that supreme court decisions say prohibits city governments from any form of punishment (the $50 fine being the limit of city compulsory authority).
City council on Tuesday delayed a public reading of the measure for two weeks, frustrating sponsor Chip Henderson, a contractor and builder. The ban on the profitable use of private houses is motivated by complaints among council constituents. These expressions of “concern” have given rise in the minds of council members to speculate about the moral character of visitors arriving here through the digital home-sharing networks sprouting up around the world.
River City steeped in fear
The industry, lead by Airbnb, relies on mutual rankings among participants. A five-star host gets more business, and a five-star guest enjoys greater access. The self-reinforcing mechanism within the Airbnb network toward quality is ignored by city politicians. Instead, they are listening to constituents who want the council to block the free use by other people of their own private property in acts that are harmless, innocent, private and non-tortious.
Anxiety, fear of strangers and “security concerns” drive the measure that has met little resistance in principle among the nine council members. Even conservatives such as Ken Smith and Darrin Ledford and presumptive liberal skeptics of state power such as Demetrus Coonrod have not raised a defense of property rights as against bureaucracy, surveillance, regulation, taxation, permission — the whole dead hand of government administration as against this free market dominion involving more than 500 families and property holders.
Council members believe they “must do something,” as it were, and that they would be remiss in their offices if they did not pass some kind of prohibition against the liberty of private property owners, since public comments against rentals seem overwhelming — Mr. Ledford heard 500 against and none for, he says.
Tourism magnet closing shell?
Chattanooga, called Scenic City by some and Gig City by others, boasts of is openness to visitors. Tens of thousands of people visiting the city for sporting events such as Head of the Hooch (rowing regatta), Tour de Georgia (biking) and Ironman (triathalon) need places to stay. Hotels and motels meet the needs of many. But others favor more personal and often cheaper venues in people’s residences through the voluntary and profit-creating online networks.
If suspicion controls the council’s actions, there seems little reason to think schools are the last potential neighbors shuddering in fright.
Operators of hospitals, restaurants, senior care facilities, child-care businesses and toy stores could also hold up their hand and say, “Wait, I am concerned about sexual molesters, too, and I want a 1,000-foot protection zone around my property to keep away visitors to Chattanooga.”
The grinding action against property rights is premised on an earlier takings of property rights by state actors in the Chattanooga area — and that is zoning. Zoning has not been challenged as unconstitutional. Its spirit infects the ideas of many people who want to use zoning to keep neighborhoods largely unchangeable, because exceptions in zoning categories that violate neighborhood character may change property valuations. The zoning structure gives everyone an interest in how other people use their land, and puts the hand of fixity and stagnation on every part of Chattanooga, for the presumed benefit of all.
Source: “Short Term Vacation Rentals In Chattanooga Hit New Stumbling Blocks; Measure Delayed 2 Weeks,” Chattanoogan.com, June 13, 2017