Lafayette Zoning and Planning recommending moving Airbnbs out of residential neighborhoods

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – The Lafayette Consolidated Government is introducing its first regulations for Airbnb locations, but one requirement could force many of the small businesses to close.

As the short-term rental industry has gained traction over the years, all Lafayette has done to touch it previously is tax it.

Now, the city council is voting on rules that separate the property use from other forms of lodging, but not everyone can agree on how it is being done.

“If owner occupancy becomes a requirement, we would be out of business,” warned Airbnb home owner Angie Comeaux.

“That’s the problem. It is a business. It’s in my backyard,” claimed Gordon Schoeffler who lives behind an Airbnb home.

It’s conflicting opinions like that the Lafayette city council faced Tuesday when they introduced the city’s first short-term rental regulations.

One of which would require all Airbnb’s and other short-term rentals inside residential single family neighborhoods to have the owner living inside.

Mayor-President Josh Guillory told the public the problem exist without the ordinance.

“If this ordinance doesn’t pass, then yeah, in RS-1 it’s the Wild Wild West. There’s no regulation,” he stated.

Several entrepreneurs argued they have operated for years without complaints, but some neighbors told horror stories of having strangers next to their home and children, videoing over the fence or shutting down a street for commercial events. That’s why the Zoning and Planning Commission added the recommendation.

Zoning and Planning Commission Vice Chair voted Mark Pritchard defended the decision. He said, “Single family means one family, not multiple families living in the same residence, and the word residential means you reside there.”

The council did not agree with how the owner occupancy requirement would undo years of work, for a small number of complaints.

City Council Chairman and District 1 Representative Pat Lewis said, “It’s hard for me to understand that a decision could be made that someone been operating a short-term business for four-five years, be a good operator, and all of a sudden you want them to disappear.”

Pritchard replied saying, “I think those people (homeowners) deserve to have what they reasonably felt like they were getting when they bought their homes over 50 years ago. We’re going to live in a neighborhood with the people that live in the neighborhood.”

The city ordinance passed initial introduction unaltered. The final decision will be made on July 21. District 3 Councilwoman Liz Hebert and Lewis both said they plan to amend the current ordinance.

Lewis said he would be willing to moving the owner occupancy requirement to only new short term rentals, “More or less like grandfathered in because we have over 300, again over 300 Airbnb’s, and out of 300, that is my first complaint.”

Apart from Airbnb’s website, Lafayette Consolidated Government has no idea where short term renters are inside Lafayette. Additional recommendations from the Zoning and Planning Commission would allow LCG to collect a count.

Short term rentals would be allowed in 8 of the 11 Lafayette zones. Only community homes are allowed in as many areas.

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