City to sue Savannah company for use of unlicensed short-term vacation rentals

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The City of Savannah has filed a suit against a local business for operating more than two dozen unlicensed short-term vacation rentals.

According to the city, Mark Dewitt and his company, Ardsley Park Savannah, LLC, own the largest number of illegal vacation rentals in the city.

They advertise at least 26 unlicensed units on Airbnb. At least 22 of these units, which are operated at addresses described in the complaint, are located throughout the central part of the city in zoning districts which do not allow vacation rental units. The residences are scattered between E. 33rd St. and E. 65th St.

According to the lawsuit, a city zoning ordinance bans the short-term rentals south of Victory Drive, and anything north of Victory Drive must be approved. Dewitt was fined more than $5,000 earlier this year for running 10 short-term vacation rentals in those areas.

District 4 Alderman Julian Miller hopes the lawsuit will help send a message.

"It's a lucrative business; a lot of money tied up in this and I can see where somebody would, I guess exhaust all their resources, and I guess that's what's been going on, and this is an attempt by the city to end those resources," Miller said.

The city contends residents are harmed and will continue to be harmed by the defendants' violations of the zoning ordinance. The city also contends that the defendants have acted in bad faith by refusing to comply with the zoning and short-term vacation rental ordinances.

Alderman Miller says this just happens to be the first case against illegally-operated rentals. He expects more suits later down the road.

According to a release, the city will seek permanent and temporary injunctions to halt the company, along with fines.

Read the full complaint below:

Copyright 2017 WTOC. All rights reserved.