Oakwood bans short term rentals (AirBnB) shows lack of creativity

The Mayor of Oakwood, William Duncan, runs a very friendly, welcoming, open meeting. Speakers are treated with respect, and even given second opportunities to address the council. There was no question that he approached this ordinances passage with an open mind.

thumbnail of Oakwood agenda 8-5-2019-Meeting-Packet

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The author of the ordinance, Vice Mayor Byington, was the exact opposite, even having a long speech prepared to justify his rationale for passing an ordinance that prohibits people from providing lodging in their homes for less than 25 days. Several speakers told horror stories of “transient” people disturbing the peace, trashing their yards and taking up precious parking.

A half-a-dozen AirBnB superhosts came to try to get the council to reconsider. Former Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell was the first to speak about the value of AirBnB. How it can help empty-nesters be able to afford to keep their homes, how many people prefer to experience a community from a home instead of a hotel, and that AirBnB has all kinds of community safeguards, including anti-discrimination tools built in to help prevent the kinds of behavior described by some residents.

I was one of the hosts to speak as well. For all our reasons, which you can watch the video to hear, there were no questions from the council on how or why they could change the ordinance to improve it, to make Oakwood a welcoming community, or how they respect the rights of property owners to utilize their homes in ways that weren’t possible 10 years ago.

Instead, the council threw the baby out with the bed and breakfast.

Now, only stays longer than 25 days will be permitted. This means no visits of UD parents, no military members waiting for housing to come available, no wedding guests, all must stay outside the boundaries of the community on the hill, under “the dome.” And Oakwood residents, with apartments over their garage with private entries, must only rent to folks staying for at least 25 days. No mention of the difference between renting a whole home vs renting a room in your own home. In my year of hosting, I’ve only had a visiting nurse stay that long, although a few others have come close. A recent reservation inquiry for 6 months that came in on Saturday from the UK, is now deliberating his safety in light of the shooting over the weekend. Most visits are 2-5 days with a few occasional week to 2 weeks stays.

What could have been different? Columbus now requires a permit and annual licensing fees. Require an inspection to make sure the facility has smoke detectors, a carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher. See that the rental agreement includes instructions about parking, noise, trash and numbers of guests. Have a 2-nusiance call per year limit, and then the rights to rent are revoked for a year. Put limits on numbers of unrelated people that you can rent to- and restrictions on numbers of people per property based on size. If you wanted to get extra-restrictive, require all short-term rentals to only be available to Oakwood residents who live within 500 feet or 3 homes away from their STR. My AirBnB is across the street from my house, and Mayor Leitzell’s is sort of behind and off to the side of his. These arrangements work well for proper management, they would work well in Oakwood.

You could even require hosts to maintain top ratings on their platform of choice, require that the platform has screening and insurance provided, or in lieu of those functions, require all hosts to be bonded. There are literally 10 ways to Sunday to solve the problems, without the draconian xenophobic ordinance as proposed by Mr. Byington and endorsed by all.

This isn’t the first community to try to regulate AirBnB and STRs, there are lots of communities trying to balance the equation between property rights and business opportunities that blur the lines of zoning regulations and ad hoc restrictions- often lobbied for by those in the conventional hospitality industry.

Oakwood residents now can either pull petitions for a ballot referendum, which may cost the city to hold, since it’s so close to the deadline for 90 days before the November election (tomorrow), or by challenging the ordinance in court. The Mayor asked the city attorney to explain recourse, but unfortunately, he either didn’t have a microphone, or any interest in using it- and he spoke to his employers instead of to the people he works for.

Oakwood used to have deed restrictions preventing Jews from being property owners. This ordinance is just another way to keep people out from under the dome that can’t pay the price of full admission. It’s really too bad that the council feels this is in the best interest of the community, because it’s been my experience that once people have experienced Historic South Park by either visiting my business (in an obsolete corner grocery) or visited my home (which I bought for less than the price of a late model used car) or at my AirBnB, they fall in love with my community.

Gary wants people to boycott Oakwood over this. I’m actually fine with it- since it means more business for my little guesthouse. However, my opinion still stands that Kettering is the best run and most diverse community in the County- that provides excellent schools, parks and rec and services for your dollar. I’m just hoping other communities don’t enact similar ordinances, because when I travel, I prefer an AirBnB over a hotel any day of the week.

It’s too bad most of the Oakwood City Council seems to be afraid to leave their comfort zone under the dome to explore some creative compromises to this issue.

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