by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher/Owner – or

Coming right out of the gates as the first piece on the agenda, the city of Pass Christian adopted changes to the short-term rental ordinance No. 675, which has been a widespread issue throughout the community for months. With a 3-2 vote that took just an hour short of discussion Tuesday, October 3, 2023, the city amended several changes within the current ordinance.

Alderman-at-Large Kenny Torgeson, Ward 1 Alderwoman Betty Douglass Sparkman and Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot all voted for the proposal with a few changes. Ward 3 Alderman Kirk Kimball and Ward 4 Alderman Victor Pickich voted Nay on the amendments.

“This is monumental for the City of Pass Christian, and we have the ability to support the growth of Short-Term Rentals in a measured way and prevent overwhelming a neighborhood,” said Pass Christian Mayor Jimmy Rafferty, who orchestrated this proposal with a commission set up by the city.

“I would like to thank our Short-term Rental Advisory Committee members (Ronnie Daniels, Claudette Jones, Carl LaRosa, Perry Pezzarossi and Sydney Wall) for conducing the research and making the aforementioned recommended changes to our Short-term Rental Ordinance. I would also like to thank our Community Development Personnel (Mark Savasta and Jenny Lowery) and our Board of Alderpersons (Betty Sparkman, Regina Charlot, Kirk Kimball, Victor Pickich and Kenny Torgeson) for approving these necessary changes to preserve Pass Christian.”

Despite the Mayor’s proposal, a few questions were asked, and deliberation came from every board member about the proposal.

“Every time we are at our max under this proposal, we will have someone to come back and ask if we’ll reconsider, when our ordinance says 150 short-term rentals cap and 20% density,” said Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot. “I don’t want us
as the board to have to rule on this all the time when we have an ordinance and a Building Code Officer. If we allow these precedents to be changed, how are we speaking to our residents who elected us.”

In the dissent, Ward 3 Alderman Kirk Kimball expressed his concern with no enforcement, saying that he would not support this legislation.

“I could be for a lot of things, but it’s all predicated on enforcement because the arrogance of government, we add more laws on top of laws,” said Kimball to Pass Christian City Attorney Malcom Jones when asked if there could be a change in the measure for his support. “I’m anti-government, as you can tell, and this is a terrible piece of legislation and we should have never stepped in it. This is not currently what we need at the moment.”

Ward 4 Alderman Victor Pickich followed Kimball by stating, “Any of these things in the current existing ordinance, the code department could draft a letter and send to the owner right now. This is not anything we need to pass tonight. I agree with Mr. Kimball, I don’t agree there’s anyway we can come in and pass this amended ordinance, I just don’t feel we can enforce this all at once.”

Pass Christian Alderman-at- Large Kenny Torgeson spoke of his support of amending the current ordinance as suggested.

“We have to start somewhere. Again, we have been sitting here and talking about how we can fix things and go back to discuss the enforcement.”

After deliberation was up, the roll call vote was cast, the amended ordinance passed 3-2, and the current changes have been adopted to the short-term rental ordinance:

· Cap of 150 Short Term Rentals (STR) in the residential (T-3R) and mixed-use (T-4L) areas; we have approximately 100 at the present time.

· No cap in STRs in commercial zones (T-5C) except density limit applies to T-4+ (80%)

· Density limits in the residential (T-3R) and mixed-use areas (T-4L) will be implemented where no more than 20% of homes in a neighborhood can be STRs

· Community Development Dept. will distribute the names of the STR owner and local contact to all surrounding residences of a STR. This information will also be on the City’s website.

· Public safety complaints regarding a violation of an Ordinance should be directed to the Police Department. This includes disturbing the peace and obstructing traffic.

· Non-public safety complaints regarding a violation of the Ordinance should be directed to the local contact person. If the local contact person is not able to resolve the issue within 1 hour, the complaint should be directed during normal business hours to the Community Development Department who can determine the appropriate enforcement action.

· Upon the sale of a property, the STR permit can be transferred to the new owner, except in a residential (T-3R) and mixed-use zone (T-4L), if the density cap has already been exceeded in the neighborhood.

This will take effect now and the density is currently being calculated for each street in the city.