Members of the Louisville Metro Planning Commission said on Thursday that they needed more time to digest the overwhelming amount of public comment regarding proposed changes to the short-term rental regulations, as well as do their own research, before passing their recommendations on to Metro Council.
“You could argue both sides of this, and you wouldn’t be wrong … We just need a little more time on this to make sure the decision we send to Metro Council isn’t wrong,” said Planning Commission Chairman Vince Jarboe.
The commission continued its discussion of the short-term rental regulations to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24.
If no changes are made to the proposed regulation changes, then the Planning Commission will not hear any more public testimony, but if alterations are made, citizens will be allowed to comment during the January meeting. Jarboe assured the crowd that notice of any changes would be communicated with the public in advance.
It is unclear if a possible moratorium on non-owner-occupied short-term rentals could impact the Planning Commission’s discussion as some applications for such rentals are still going through the city approval process. The Metro Council is expected to vote on the moratorium on Dec. 13.
In addition to comments submitted online and through email, which were still flowing in Thursday, the Planning Commission heard roughly an hour and a half of testimony from those in favor of the regulations, those against and others somewhere in between.
A particularly fervent speaker was Myrna Parsley, a resident of Gahanna, Ohio, who owns a non-owner-occupied short-term rental in Old Louisville.
“I want you people to take a look at what a horrible person I am,” she said, referencing the perception that property owners who don’t live in their short-term rentals are absentee and don’t address nuisances issues. “If there is a problem, I get someone out there immediately.”
Parsley noted that she would rent out her personal home as a short-term rental but that she is prohibited from doing so because of a deed restriction.
Following her fiery speech, Jarboe said, “I was scared to tell you five minutes.”
Many of those who want no new or less regulation said they are being punished because of a few bad apples and asserted that most people against non-owner-occupied short-term rentals have likely heard horror stories but not had bad experiences themselves.
A couple cited statistics presented by city planner Joe Haberman. The statistics stated that Metro311 had received 284 complaints about non-registered short-term rentals in operation and 17 complaints about a nuisance related to short-term rentals.
Haberman later in the meeting noted that the numbers were incomplete because it only counted complaints that specifically mentioned short-term rentals and his department was not aware of relevant nuisance calls that might have been made to Louisville Metro Police Department.
Residents Sieglinde Kinne and Luke Neubauer both spoke against changing the existing short-term rental regulations, noting that they were able to earn extra income off their non-owner-occupied short-term rentals.
Kinne said before she bought a property near her as a short-term rental, she was surrounded by drug dealers and absentee landlords, and Neubauer argued that short-term rentals are better for the city than hotels because the revenue stays in the community.
“I don’t want a neighborhood of Airbnbs, but that said. I have five near me, and they aren’t a problem,” Neubauer said.
Real estate investor Jay Bowman said he is spending $90,000 to revitalize a property that was an “eyesore” on Winter Avenue to use it as a short-term rental.
“I’m not the boogeyman ready to jump out and tear everyone’s neighborhood apart,” he said. “We are not big bad money-grubbing people.”
A few speakers, including attorney Steve Porter, who often finds himself representing clients in front of the Planning Commission, raised the issue of enforcement, citing that fact that less than 500 short-term rentals are registered with the city, yet there are thousands of houses being rented on short-term rental websites like Airbnb.
“We don’t have an enforcement setup, and we need more enforcement,” Porter said, later going on to note his opposition to non-owner-occupied rentals in residential areas. “We should not allow unhosted short-term rentals in single-family neighborhoods. I think that is very important to the community.”
A proposed change to the short-term rental regulations include possibly banning non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in either single-family residential zones or in all residential districts, as well as the Old Louisville-Limerick Traditional Neighborhood Zoning District.
Resident Joe Hummel argued that when a non-owner-occupied house becomes a short-term rental that its use changes.
“This is not residential use. This is commercial use,” Hummel said. “It’s not consistent with Cornerstone 2020. It’s not consistent with the neighborhood plans. It’s not consistent with residential use.”
Resident Tom Luber said he’s concerned about short-term rentals taking over large portions of streets, leaving few single-family homeowners.
“There is this cancer moving in,” he said.
Most of those who want stricter regulations were in favor of prohibiting non-owner-occupied short-term rental in residential areas.