A homeowner who says the city’s Airbnb ordinance is unconstitutional is challenging her prosecution to city court in a filing with City Court Judge Sherry Paty.
Mary Alice Crapo, 65, of 2512 N. Wilder St., filed the complaint.
Crapo says her council member, Russell Gilbert, and others have deprived thousands of homeowners like her for two years of their right “to earn at least a partial living by participating in the Gig City economy via the Internet.”
She said, “The STVR ordinance infringes on my rights of liberty and my property rights. If I am not free to use my property like everybody inside the overlay map, my rights have been infringed upon. I can no longer invite vacationers with the Internet to Chattanooga use my home, but others in Chattanooga are allowed to do so. We live in the same city, but the City of Chattanooga has created two groups by drawing a line on a map. This is what makes this law vulnerable to being overturned. That is totally illegal and unconstitutional.
In a brief citing Supreme Court cases and the Constitution, Mrs. Crapo said the law in favor of a free market in rental housing is longstanding.
“There are many cases to cite to prove that the overlay map violates all kinds of statutes. For example, Crass v. Tennessee Valley Authority, “The equal protection right is violated by selective enforcement only when the selection is based on ‘arbitrary classification.’ If we find the overlay map is an arbitrary classification, that makes it invalid.”
Mrs. Crapo cited an early 19th century case, Vanzant v. Waddell, 1829. “The right to life, liberty and property, of every individual, must stand or fall by the same rule or law that governs every other member of the body… under similar circumstances.”
She said, "The political jockeying that created the map reflects political pressures on council members to have their districts inside — or outside — the 'map of permission.' The fluctuating opinions of each councilman formed the overlay map. So there is no special classification for an individual be chosen to live ‘inside the line on the overlay map.’ This means the selection is arbitrary and unconstitutional.”
“The first thing I told all the councilmen when I learned about the new ordinance,” Mrs. Crapo said, “‘This is the Jim Crow laws of 2019.’ I just became ‘black,’ one of the deprived ones, because I was outside of the overlay map.
“Rosa Parks in 1955 refused to get out of her seat on the bus for some white man because of the Jim Crow laws and the 14th Amendment came to Park’s rescue. I will be citing a lot of cases that used the 14th Amendment as well to ensure this law is overturned.”
The City Council has set up certain areas where short-term vacation rentals are allowed. They are not allowed elsewhere.