Should cities regulate Airbnb rentals? Some local officials are taking a look.

Oxford is considering regulating Airbnb in the city, which drew reactions from many residents who operate in the rental enterprise.

Community Development Director Sam Perry noted in a memo to the council included in the Dec. 18 agenda that the planning commission had reviewed potential legislation and voted on a recommendation to the council Sept. 11. Council held a work session Oct. 16 and an open discussion Nov. 6 on the topic.

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This discussion, however, opened with Perry offering five revisions suggested by staff:

• Limiting the residential district option to the owner’s primary residence only

• Creating a new “length of stay” definition separate from a “transient” definition allowing stays up to six nights, rather than 14

• Limiting the total days per year for a residential district’s STR to 30

• Removing references to neighborhood overlays because of the revised restrictions

• Adding a registration requirement for all STRs, regardless of frequency

Council held the discussion Dec. 18 in hopes of finalizing provisions of the legislation intending to have first reading of an ordinance at the Jan. 15 meeting but public comments were primarily negative on those staff-generated revisions. Ultimately it was decided to form a committee to make recommendations.

That date remains the goal, but is uncertain.

Several residents who offer short-term rentals in their homes spoke to the council, most in opposition to some of the revisions suggested by Perry in his presentation.

Shana Rosenberg, a member of the Planning Commission who also offers short-term rentals at her home, said she opposed most of the additional changes, but one.

“I don’t like pretty much all of the changes, but I do like the registration of all,” she said. “It’s a much more humble an endeavor than people realize.”

Some had an issue with the requirement short-term rental homes be owner-occupied, some of them second homes purchased to be used as rentals.

Pete McCarthy said he owns a duplex which he uses for that purpose and cannot live on both sides of it. He also objected to the 30-day limit.

“We have a very profitable operation going there. I have a problem with all the rules,” he said.

Brian Strang also objected to the 30-day limit, calling the proposed revisions, “about malicious.”

“I’m filling a need in Oxford,” he said, explaining one of his regular guests is a Miami professor commuting from Kentucky who stays with him once a week to avoid driving back home late at night. “I provide a service with the cost of hotels here. You’re removing revenue streams in Oxford.”

Jeff MacDonald reminded the council that churches and other organizations ask people to host out-of-town guests on Miami’s big weekends as a fundraiser with a donation for the organization.

“Now, I’m hearing it’s a big business. This is a big business in our town,” he said. “I don’t know how you can regulate it. This is a big problem. This is a big issue.”

Other speakers told the council that the ability to do short-term rentals could provide income which would make a home purchase possible as additional income; that the regulations step in front of the market; that regulations are unneeded; that using the conditional use approach would not interfere with those wishing to do it and would allow neighbors to weigh in during the approval process; and allowing STRs has a potential for negatives and the safety of the community should be an important part of the consideration.

Mayor Kate Rousmaniere said she has researched other communities who have tackled this question.

“The thing they stick to is owner-occupied,” she said, noting short-term rentals are illegal in a residential district and any regulation lends credibility to what is actually illegal.

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