Kirksville Council to review codes for Airbnb rentals

According to its website, Airbnb has over three million lodging listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries. (MGN)

A few community members are making their concerns known and asking the City of Kirksville to change its codes and policies.

Airbnbs are becoming more popular across the world and country, including in Kirksville. But, the city is saying those that have advertised their rooms and homes on the site may not be following the correct protocol.

Airbnb is a popular online hospitality service. It allows people to lease or rent short-term lodging like a spare bedroom. According to its website, Airbnb has over three million lodging listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries.

Jen Houser is an Airbnb operator in Kirksville.

"You can basically say hey, I have a bedroom or hey, you can rent my whole house for the weekend because I happen to be going out of town. It's just a way to make some extra money."

Kirksville City Manager Mari Macomber told KTVO via email:

"According to Airbnb, Kirksville has about 12 locations in town. Who would have thought, but there are times when the hotels are full, so having additional options is a good thing."

Houser knows firsthand that during particular seasons, hotels in the area fill up fast, and many times, people have to stay in towns other than Kirksville.

"I was a faculty member at Truman State and my husband is faculty at A.T. Still. We know that people come far and wide to go to graduation, homecoming and parents weekend. We know that they end up driving an hour from their hotel room just to come in for graduation. We thought , 'That is silly, why don't we open our house up and meet some of these amazing parents.?'

But, opening up your doors and welcoming people into your home is not as easy as one might think.

Macomber says many of the Airbnbs are located within single-family residential areas and are not zoned for commercial activity.

As a result, that has raised concerns from neighbors of those who rent their properties.

The city manager pointed out to us in an email that the Airbnb website encourages hosts to reach out to their neighbors and ensure they meet all city regulations - that includes obtaining a business license and paying any lodging taxes like existing bed and breakfasts do.

Houser says she would be willing to pay taxes in order to keep her Airbnb up and running. But, she believes the city should consider reevaluating its policies.

"Apparently, we are not allowed to have Airbnbs according to city code and policy. So, I think it would be good to update the city code and policy to make it easier for those who want to do Airbnb and welcome people into our homes."

At a recent city council meeting, Houser and another citizen who rent their properties on the site say they are concerned they may have to close their doors - and not everyone is as willing to cooperate with city codes.

A gentleman who did not identify himself at the meeting told the council, "the city needs to say out of people's lives," and that it has no business being involved if he rents out his property. He also referred to the city as a "communist Gestapo."

City Manager Mari Macomber says the city council will discuss the issue of Airbnbs at a later date.

Houser also told KTVO she has had conversations with the tourism bureau and Kirksville Regional Economic Development Incorporated (K-REDI) and is hopeful she will be able to keep her Airbnb up and running.

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