Dozens of neighborhoods newly eligible for Airbnb gear up for debate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City Neighborhood Advisory Council meeting Tuesday was likely just a scene setter for what's expected to be a hotly contested topic before Kansas City's Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee later this month.

“This is so convoluted now, how will we ever enforce this?" Tiffany Moore said of the latest version of a short term rental ordinance.

The debate has been going on for a couple years, but neighborhoods like Birchwood Hill in South Kansas City were never a part of it. That’s because they weren’t originally supposed to be eligible for Airbnbs. Now the neighborhood association's president says 64,000 additional homes would be.

Airbnb says they have 600 active users in Kansas City who hosted 65,000 guests. That's despite the fact short-term rentals are currently illegal in Kansas City.

“It’s not technically, they are breaking the law," former Kansas City Councilman John Sharp said.

Instead of citing hosts, the city has chosen to work with them on a new ordinance and even recently expanded it to include R 7.5 and R 10 neighborhoods. Those are homes in less dense single-family neighborhoods.

“We’ve had hours and hours of testimony where people have testified this has been a very good thing for their families, their homes and their neighbors," Kansas City Planner Patty Noll said.

“I like the quietness of a residential area. I like a place where I know my neighbors," Neighborhood Advisory Council member Carol Winterowd responded.

“These operations may become disruptive and really be intrusive on the neighborhood, everyone says this will be no problem, everyone will be well behaved, some of them probably will be, some of them may not be," South Kansas City Alliance Government Affairs Director John Sharp said.

Sharp says if operators are confident they are good neighbors they shouldn't mind having to prove it. He supports expanding provisions requiring a majority of neighbors to sign off on the short-term rentals. Right now that's only a requirement for non-occupied homes. He also would like to see permits be probationary.

Airbnb supporters like Steve Mitchell, reached by phone Tuesday night, have repeatedly said they support regulation and are willing to be taxed if state law would allow it.