City to take a look at Airbnb policies
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – The Marshfield Common Council will take a look into policies that govern the operation of Airbnbs within the city.
Airbnb operation is a concept stemming from an online marketplace that started in the late 2000s, which offers lodging to visitors and tourists primarily in homes.
“A lot of people travel; a lot of people use those now,” said Marshfield Mayor Bob McManus. “And, if somebody wants to have an Airbnb currently, basically they have to rezone their house or whatever type of facility it is and there are fees involved that are about $500.
“So, we are looking at that because we want people, of course, to come to the city, and we know that people are doing this right now and maybe not going through the permitting process. We want to make it as simple as possible.
“You always worry about government overreach,” the mayor added stating that the policies in place were a little restrictive.
The council expressed some concern during discussion at the Nov. 26 common council meeting about the clientele that local Airbnb businesses might bring to the city.
“And then, the hotels have a concern,” added McManus. “In essence, that is money out of their pocket, so they want to make sure that if that is the case, folks that are renting out their home are paying the same room tax that a hotelier would pay.”
“Most zoning codes weren’t written with these kinds of things in mind,” Marshfield City Administrator Steve Barg said. “Think about how the world has changed in the last 20-25 years.
“I think that it is a good thing that we are looking at this right now… not only would you have to pay $500, there is no guarantee that you would be approved. In fact, one of the requirements is that you be rezoned to mixed use. If you live in the middle of a purely residential district, you would likely be turned down. I mean, there would be no reason for the Plan Commission to be supportive of the request, because they would say ‘Well, everything around you is zoned residential. Why would we make you a mixed use district; that would allow certain limited businesses and other things.’
“We are really telling the average homeowner that you can’t run an Airbnb for the most part, unless you live along the highways or other areas of the community that would support commercial and other types of uses.”
Barg added that if it is easier to permit the Airbnbs, they will be easier to track to make sure that they are paying their share of the lodging taxes.
City officials will look at policies and ordinances from other municipalities and bring it back to the council for review.