What started as a simple request from Dan and Grace Dykstra to rezone their property for a vacation rental home in North Chattanooga has prompted a citywide discussion about zoning laws that some say need to be updated to avoid squelching a booming source of tourism and tax dollars.


Chattanooga has traditionally taken a conservative approach and limited where homeowners can rent out a room or the entire house on a short-term basis. But with a growing number of homeowners offering their homes for vacation rentals along with alternative options like
couchsurfing
-- allowing someone to rent a couch -- city officials say it's time for the city to explore new laws.


Other communities have offered these kind of options for decades. Tourists can rent a lake house in Ellijay, Ga., or a beach house on the coast of Florida or a cabin in Pigeon Forge next to the Smoky Mountains. And Chattanooga has positioned itself as a booming tourism spot, attracting national events like the Ironman, USA Pro Cycling championships and Head of the Hooch along with Riverbend, the Tennessee Aquarium and the region's natural assets.


Meanwhile, the potential for rentals has taken off. At Airbnb, the industry leader for people to advertise or find private rentals online, more than 3 million people booked rooms worldwide in 2012.


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