Fayetteville Planning Commission proposes short-term rental ordinance first draft

KNWA

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Logan Humphrey stood in a three-bedroom home in Fayetteville, called the “SoFay Farmhouse”, which he considered the premier property co-managed by his company Cohobnb. The house is a short-term rental listed on Airbnb, which technically violates city codes that were established decades before Airbnb existed.

“I started renting out my apartment casually on Airbnb and realized it was a great way to make money and pay for the bills,” Humphrey said. “Our company went from three properties—my property and just a couple of others that were just friends—upwards to 30.”

There are anywhere from 500-700 “hosts” in Fayetteville, said Andrew Garner, the city’s planning director. Archaic codes keep them from being able to legally rent out their properties, and guests can’t be 100% sure they’re getting what’s expected, he said.

“The way the code is drafted, short-term rentals are not allowed in any districts except hotel zoning districts,” Garner said. “In this area, there’s not a lot of good models. I think some of the cities are in the same boat as us…that they basically don’t allow them in their zoning code.”

The Fayetteville Planning Commission shelved a first-draft proposal of a new regulatory ordinance Monday, which included many elements designed to address 21st-century short-term renting. Ideas included a density cap, which would limit the number of short-term rentals per street. Also, occupancy would be limited to two people per bedroom plus two, but the total would be capped at eight.

The first draft, which will be reviewed again Feb. 24, isn’t expected to pass as currently written, Garner said.

“We may be trying to overregulate something that doesn’t really need a lot of regulation itself,” Humphrey said.

The city needs to rewrite the current ordinance to match modern needs, Humphrey said, and he hopes the regulation of hosts will professionalize the industry. The Airbnb market regulates itself, as poor hosts are often outed by guests who leave bad reviews, while quality hosts are rewarded with new business, he said.

“Unfortunately, there are just a few outlying properties that could be dangerous, and people don’t necessarily know that,” Humphrey said. “However, I think the vast majority of hosts overwhelmingly want their guests to have a fantastic stay.”

The requirement of conditional use permits has been discussed since the city first began looking into short-term rental regulation. The process could be drawn-out and clog up the permitting system, Humphrey said, and he wants the system to be favorable to hosts as well as the city.

There’s no rush to push through a new ordinance because the planning commission wants to “get it right”. While the code stipulates a violation with any rental under seven days, the city isn’t really enforcing it or writing any tickets, Garner said, and the ordinance will go before city council in March or April.

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