Roeland Park City Council splits on short-term rentals but passes ordinance; Airbnb rentals allowed

AirBNBRoeland Park finally got through its long dilemma over how to regulate – or even whether to allow – short-term rentals in the city, such as those provided over the Airbnb platform. But it was an evening that saw several amendments defeated and split votes on most of the motions.

The city council Monday passed an ordinance that cleans up many of the prohibitions that would have made the rentals illegal and sets new restrictions. City staff had previously advised the council that current code, and restrictions on “boarding houses” in the city, would not allow for Airbnb rentals. However, a handful of Airbnb rentals already operate in Roeland Park.

The division on the council often came down to Councilors Ryan Kellerman, Michael Rhoades and Tim Janssen on one side of the vote and the rest of the council on the other side. That was, in fact, how the vote lined up on the final approval.

A lot of “worst-case scenarios” and lots of fear have come out of the (council) chamber, Councilor Michael Poppa said before the final vote was taken. “We need to stop doing that and start moving forward.”

Rhoades had moved for several amendments that were defeated and talked passionately about the rights of neighbors. “I am a firm believer that neighbors have rights,” he said. “So do owners.” Rhoades had wanted the city to deny permits for short-term rentals based on objections from neighboring houses.

“The rights of all are important in our city,” Poppa said, “and the rights of all should be respected in our city.”

The council has discussed the short-term rentals, which apply to a number of platforms as well as Airbnb, at several meetings and the debate has stretched to hours. Monday it took another session of nearly two and one-half hours to make a final decision. “I believe we have talked about this to death,” Poppa said before the final vote.

Among the amendments that failed were three offered by Rhoades. Two had to do with allowing neighbors to object (one died for lack of a second) and one would have made the rentals be 250 feet from another short-term rental. A motion by Becky Fast to make the objection condition apply to all rentals, including long-term, died for lack of a second.

Janssen offered two amendments, one to require insurance and one to limit the rentals to five percent of the street. The first amendment failed 5-3 and the second ended 4-4 with Sheri McNeil joining Kellerman, Janssen and Rhoades in favor. Mayor Joel Marquardt voted against the amendment to break the tie.

One amendment offered by Poppa that would allow someone to have roommates without violating the rental ordinance passed unanimously.

Kellerman joined Rhoades in questioning provisions of the ordinance, but McNeil also raised issues about fire inspections and denying permits to problem houses.

“We are in dire straights,” Kellerman said before the final vote. “We need revenue.” Kellerman at one point had asked for a transient tax to be part of the regulation. Staff said that would need to be researched and presented as a separate vote.

Under the ordinance, the short-term rentals must be owner-occupied houses and the rentals must be for fewer than 30 days to six or fewer guests. It does require courtesy notices to neighbors, city permits and inspections.

Several Roeland Park residents spoke in favor of allowing short-term rentals at the beginning of the session.