Fayetteville exploring short-term rental regulation, change in code to help average hosts


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFTA) — Fayetteville city administration hosted a public meeting Monday to explore short-term rental regulation. The purpose was to gauge the public on ways to craft a solid code that eliminates the decades-old ordinance currently in place.

Shannon Mitchell is an Airbnb host in Fayetteville, and she owns one of the more than 500 short-term residential rentals in the city. The rented space is in the downstairs portion of her permanent residence, and it’s a homey, reasonably-priced spot with a bedroom, living room and bathroom.

The quaint blue walls stretch across the living room and are only interrupted by a bookshelf-console combo filled with titles ranging from Tutankhamun: His Tomb and its Treasures to Spain ’07. Mitchell, an art appraiser and consultant, adorned the space with eye-catching paintings. Each is cataloged in the “House Rules” book she keeps in the bedroom, which emanates shades of white and grey throughout its coloration, save the yellow corner chair.

“This space, I’m not really using anymore since my children are grown and out of the house, so it’s easy for me,” Mitchell said. “I’ve enjoyed the hospitality aspect of it.”

Mitchell said she’s received no complaints from neighbors, has had no serious problems with guests and considers herself a quality host.

“I’ve had guests from all over the world stay, and that’s been a fun part of it,” Mitchell said.

The city’s zoning regulations don’t allow for people to rent out their places in residential areas for fewer than seven days, meaning hosts like Mitchell technically violate city codes that were implemented decades before Airbnb even existed. Andrew Garner is Fayetteville’s City Planning Director, and he said those properties would be considered hotels under the current ordinance.

“It’s just a matter of trying to align what’s going on with the actual code,” Garner said.

Garner said the Fayetteville City Council wants to open up the process for people like Mitchell who own the residence they’re renting out on a short-term basis.

“We hardly ever get complaints about the ones that are technically in violation,” Garner said. “I think we’re simply trying to make an easier path and a level playing field so people that’re renting them out have a proper way to get a legal business license.”

The city doesn’t enforce the violations unless complaints are involved, Garner said, and that typically does not happen unless someone has rented out his or her property as a party house. Some people also buy properties simply to rent them out, and neighbors know there’s nobody consistently staying in the homes.

“Fayetteville has a lot of people coming in for home football games, so that’s where I first remember it,” Garner said. “We started getting complaints about party houses, people just renting out their house for four or five days over the football-game weekends. We have had some violation-type situations like that we worked through.”

Mitchell said the average Airbnb host doesn’t match that description.

“I think most of the people I know who’re hosts are like myself where they just have an extra room or guest house or space that they can turn into an Airbnb,” Mitchell said.

Garner said the process to implement a new code should take about six months. He said other items that’ll be discussed are the regulation of what constitutes an adequate rental, as some people post their backyard shed or rundown properties on Airbnb.

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