Kennesaw considering changes to rental ordinances, upgrades to park

Brick Kennesaw government building with four tall wooden columns

By Rebecca Gaunt

Changes may be coming for those who operate short-term rentals inside Kennesaw’s city limits, such as those found on Airbnb and VRBO.

Kennesaw zoning administrator Darryl Simmons told the City Council Monday that his department is drafting a short-term rental ordinance. The item was on the agenda for discussion only, and details were scant at this early stage.

The city currently has no regulations on the books pertaining to such businesses. The ordinance would affect the ones that are already in operation, create rules and regulations, and streamline approvals for new applications.

“Keep in mind that for every short-term rental, that’s one less unit that can be used for long-term residents,” Simmons said.

The topic has received more attention recently in the wake of homeowner Ryan McGovern having to demolish his backyard Treasure Hunt Treehouse that he has been renting out for five years.

Read more: It’s ‘about safety’: Council member’s attempt to save Kennesaw treehouse rental unsuccessful

A call to code enforcement from a presumed neighbor shut down his business first, which he said generated $75,000 a year. The call to demolish it came later after inspections confirmed the structure had no permits and was never inspected.  

The treehouse also sparked conversation about accessory dwelling units (ADUs) which are livable units sharing the lot with a larger property, such as guest houses and in-law suites.

According to city staff, the treehouse would not have met the qualifications to be an ADU, even if there were an ordinance on the books. Nonetheless, the topic has sparked discussion on the council.

Council member Pat Ferris was not enthusiastic about allowing ADUs and said residents can put in tiny homes by applying for special land use permits.

Simmons had concerns about ADUs adding strain to infrastructure and how they would fit into the long-term comprehensive plan for the city and zoning ordinances.

“You could have a 300-unit subdivision and you could actually add another 100 units in there,” he said. “And then the fire marshall, they’re gonna have some questions about access in case of incidents.”

Council member Madelyn Orochena requested more information about how surrounding cities have handled the issue, research which Simmons said the staff would undertake if given the go-ahead on the matter.

Tracey Viars said she appreciated the idea for aging parents or disabled family members, but still had reservations. 

“Generally, I’m a property rights person…we have the potential for a lot of abuse here with KSU. We’re just a different market,” she said.

Mayor Derek Easterling also expressed concerns about infrastructure and mixing commercial and residential property but ultimately gave Simmons the green light to explore the idea for further discussion.

Additionally, the department is working on sign ordinance revisions and commercial district updates. 

The chicken ordinance is also being reviewed to help address future applications by making the terms clearer. Simmons said chickens are an issue that comes up every couple of years.

Last August, a homeowner unsuccessfully lobbied the council for permission to keep 20 chickens on his property. His request was denied 4-1.

Read more: Kennesaw denies homeowner’s appeal for 20 backyard chickens

Pending approval at next week’s regular meeting, Swift-Cantrell Park will get a new 24×54-foot Outdoor Fitness Station. According to Parks and Recreation Director Bill McNair, it will have 12 accessible exercise stations, targeting cardio, muscles, core, balance, and flexibility.

The often-crowded existing fitness station will remain in the park.

The installation contract with Game Time, Inc. is for $116,065, using city funds for park improvements.

“Kennesaw is a fit city,” McNair said.

“Over 800 runners Saturday,” Easterling responded, referencing the Fit City 5K held in downtown Kennesaw last weekend.

On next week’s agenda for a vote:

*The city’s informational technology department requested to enter a contract with ESRI Geospatial Information Systems. According to agenda documents, ESRI is the sole provider of U.S. domestic Small Municipal and County Enterprise Government Agreements (SGEA). The SGEA is a bundled package of term limited software licenses and maintenance

that includes the right to copy. The city currently uses an ESRI Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) software version that is being phased out and replaced with a newer product which will phase in the price increase over a three-year period, with an out for each year if the City so chooses. The incremental pricing is as follows: $34,004.94 in fiscal year 2024-2025, $37,472.06 in fiscal year 2025-2026, and $40,900.00 in fiscal year 2026-2027.

*Multiple chairs and tables need replacement at the recreation center. Office Images, Inc. will replace and install for $41,362 with 2016 SPLOST funds.

*Brooks-Berry-Haynie will construct a new digital LED marquee sign at Smith Gilbert Gardens. It will be used to share information pertaining to the garden. The contract is for $63,507, using 2022 SPLOST funds.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.