October 4, 2019 10:21:32 AM
The city of Starkville is in the midst of a heated debate as it attempts to adjust its code to accommodate an emerging business -- short-term rentals in residential communities such as Airbnb -- while protecting the interests of home-owners in those neighborhoods.
There is a natural conflict.
Homeowners certainly have rights. So do those who choose to supplement their income through short-term rentals.
As more and more property owners turn to short-term rentals, the need to adjust the city's code to reflect the changing dynamics is warranted. This is especially true in a college town where sporting events draw large numbers of visitors.
With one exception, we applaud the city's handling of this delicate subject. The city has been holding regular meetings to allow both residents and short-term rental operators to make their cases. The tone of these meetings has been largely positive. No one seems to be drawing a line in the sand. Both sides seem to understand the opposing point of view. There is no doubt that this input has provided invaluable information for the city as it develops its new code.
We believe these meetings prove that a compromise can be made, one that protects the interest of all parties.
One troubling idea that emerged was the city's initial requirement that short-term rental owners pay an annual permit fee of $300. That proposal drew warranted criticism.
On this subject, we are firm in our conviction. The amount of a permit fee should be limited to the associated cost of the permit. It should never, under any circumstances, be used as a means of discouraging people from obtaining a permit.
Thursday, the city presented five options for consideration. Four of those options call for a smaller permit fee -- ranging from $50 to $100. That's at step in the right direction.
That aside, there's far more to like about the city's handling of this issue than there is to criticize.
That the city has now offered five options - covering everything from the amount of days a property can be rented to how complaints and citations are governed -- suggests city leaders are making a good faith effort to listen to all sides and offer options that reflect what they have heard.
Other cities have grappled with the problem and further ideas can likely be gleaned from them.
We believe there exists a healthy balance between the two sides and encourage both to continue constructive dialogue.
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