Ozark aldermen to consider Airbnb law

Debby Harrison expresses concerns about an Airbnb slated to open in her neighborhood at the Sept. 16 Ozark Board of Aldermen meeting.

According to the best available estimates, it takes just 80 days to earn more money from renting out an Airbnb unit than an entire year of a long-term rental property. 

That’s the main impetus for the growing trend that started out in urban neighborhoods in San Francisco, New Orleans or New York City. But now, just like Uber and Lyft, Airbnb use is filtering into the neighborhoods of smaller cities and towns like Springfield, Nixa and Ozark—changing how we all do business. 

The Springfield News-Leader reported in January that in Greene and Taney counties Airbnb hosts earned $1.4 million and $5.1 million respectively in 2018. Statewide, about 5,000 hosts share homes through Airbnb. That prompted Springfield and Nixa to adopt regulations for short-term rentals.

Ozark is likely to follow suit.

Debby Harrison, who lives on West Roberson Street in Ozark, just a block west from Third Street and in an area enjoying an upscale revitalization in that past decade, learned that an Airbnb unit will soon be her next-door neighbor.

“Two weeks ago, the house next to me sold,” she told the Ozark Board of Aldermen Sept. 16. “It was announced to me that it would be an Airbnb. I did not know that where I bought my home 16 years ago it was not just (zoned) residential but also a business district.”

Harrison said she had nothing against the growing trend—in the right area—but thought her neighborhood wasn’t suited for the extra traffic that the short-term rental might bring. 

“I have spoken with numerous neighbors,” she said. “I don’t want my neighborhood ruined by an Airbnb. I love my neighborhood. Everybody knows everybody and watches everybody.”

The Airbnb trend is part of a sharing economy that grew from the adage that “necessity is the mother of invention,” according to the 2016 article on curbed.com called “Airbnb vs. the city.”

“It’s a story enshrined in tech history: in 2007, two entrepreneurs struggling to make rent in pricey San Francisco latched onto a novel idea. A design conference was coming to town and hotels were sold out. The pair decided to throw three air mattresses into their loft, charge $80 per person(breakfast included), and advertise the nightly rentals on a new, custom-built website. In their first weekend of hosting, cofounder Joe Gebbia said in a 2009 interview, they netted close to $1,000. Several failed launches, a name and logo change, and 100 million guests later, Airbnb is now a $30 billion company.”

It has posed zoning challenges for cities and towns nationwide. Mayor Rick Gardner told Harrison that Ozark would soon enact regulations. 

“We understand your concerns and we are in the process of addressing them,” Gardner said. “Our city attorney (Amanda) Callaway can explain that further.”

Callaway said Ozark would draft regulations similar to neighboring cities.

“The city of Ozark… the staff will bring forward and propose draft ordinances that will regulate Airbnbs, or short-term rentals which cover all those different business types. We are looking at the Nixa ordinances as an example but also the Springfield ordinances.”

Gardner reiterated the city’s commitment.

“We are getting ready to address that right now,” he said. “This is a concern to us. I can’t give you a time frame, but I appreciate your letting all of us know what you’re concerned about.”

Beyond that, Gardner was optimistic about Ozark’s growing economy. The aldermen are slated to approve three new preliminary plats for subdivisions at the next meeting in October. Gardner noted that the city’s planning and development department is quite busy, showing 34 permitted projects under construction and another 10 under review. 

At the prompting of Ward 2 Alderman Bruce Galloway, City Administrator Steve Childers briefed the board of the possibility of more parking in the downtown area. The vacant lot adjacent to the Venue on Brick and owned by the same person, John Lane, may get an upgrade to a parking lot. It’s directly across the street from Liberty Utilities that is also interested in more parking.

“Back when we starting talking about this, the folks at Liberty Electric said we need parking too,” Childers said.  “It is not a budgeted item. It will require a three-way agreement among the city, Liberty (Utilities) and the property owner. There are still a lot of moving parts.”

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