City considers tough regs for AirBnB sites

Tia Lynn Ivey News

Staying in a cozy AirBnB is one of the trendiest ways to find lodging while traveling to a new city.  However, Madison City Officials are currently evaluating the short-term rental ordinance to crackdown on homeowners renting out their properties to vacationers through popular vacation rental sites like AirBnB.

City Planner Monica Callahan briefed the Madison Mayor and City Council at the last work session on June 28 about concerns over the growing trend adversely affecting the City’s established Bed and Breakfast businesses, as well as other hotels and motels.

“We want to get ahead of the ball on this,” said Callahan. “There are positives and negatives to this. But there are more negatives than positives. We are not trying to be hyper-vigilant on this, but the B&B business here is very competitive and these short-term rentals allow for people to compete unfairly with our B&Bs.”

Callahan also noted that surrounding neighbors are often uncomfortable with the idea of strangers coming and going in the neighborhood.

“They don’t know who is staying next to them,” said Callahan. “There are some single-family neighborhoods in the city where this would definitely not be OK.”

Callahan told the council that planning staff is looking into mirroring the county’s ordinance on short-term rentals, which mandates no less than a 30-day rental period in certain parts of the county in order to prevent vacation rentals.

Councilwoman Chris Hodges expressed a willingness to keep short-term rentals alive in the City of Madison.

“You know, that is how people are traveling, and that is how I travel,” said Hodges. I’d like to see the conversation stay open on this because I do think we are not going to get millenials to come here without them at all.”

Callahan noted that planning staff is in the very early stages of researching the issues, and plans to have forums with local hoteliers and residents from various neighborhoods, before determining how to further regulate short-term rentals in the city.

City officials are trying to avoid any future legal challenges like the Morgan County government dealt with for years when homeowner Christine May sued the county for barring short-term rentals out of her property that she began conducting prior to the county instating short-term rental regulations.

“We are being proactive and we just wanted to let you all know that we are looking at this,” said Callahan. “We are just trying now to evaluate this and get ahead of the issue instead of letting it hit us in the teeth.”

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