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Board denies vacation rental permit extension

After a three-hour public hearing last Monday night, Cornelius Town Board members denied a permit extension that would have let a south Charlotte couple continue operating a vacation rental home on Lake Norman for another 30 years.

Lisa and Steve Haimbaugh plead their case to the Cornelius Town Board Monday.

The board unanimously voted to deny Steve and Lisa Haimbaugh’s request for a transient occupancy abatement period extension, which would have granted the south Charlotte residents special permission to continue using the house they own on Lake Norman as an income-generating vacation rental. In 2009, the town amended its land development code to prohibit using single family homes as vacation rentals. But it allowed a 3-year abatement period for owners like the Haimbaughs during which they could continue to rent. That abatement period ends Feb. 2, and the Haimbaughs asked for a 30-year extension, saying they need the income to pay down their debt on the house.

The Haimbaughs purchased the home at 15947 Jetton Road for $1.1 million in 2006 and offered it as a vacation rental – getting as much as $5,000 per week during peak season. In February 2009, the Town Board amended its Land Development Code for transient occupancies, or rentals, and prohibited single family non-residential homes, like the Haimbaughs. In an effort to be fair, the board voted to allow a 3-year abatement period, to allow those impacted by the code change to continue to earn income on their properties for a limited time.

More than a dozen people in attendance raised their hands in opposition to the Haimbaugh's request.

Monday’s hearing was quasi-judicial, which meant that the board invited sworn testimony from the Haimbaughs and anyone in support or opposition to their request. The opposition was strong, and included Paul Duke and Adelle Webb, who own homes on either side of the Haimbaughs, several Jetton Road residents and Lisa Godfrey, a lawyer hired by the neighbors. Neighbors said renters regularly trespass onto their properties, which presents a liability risk and safety concern. Additionally, they cited numerous violations of the rental permit, which limits the number of occupants at one time and prohibits excessive noise. Ms. Godfry also presented documents that called into question the Haimbaighs’ intentions for the property and their compliance with town and county rules.

After nearly three hours of testimony, cross examination and questions from the board, commissioners voted unanimously to deny the Haimbaugh’s request to extend the abatement period.

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