Starkville citizens are in the midst of a discussion about regulating Airbnbs and other short-term rentals in the Starkville area. Citizens voiced strong opinions on both sides of the issue at public input sessions, the most recent of which occurred on Oct. 22.
Lynn Spruill, the mayor of Starkville, said short-term rental regulations were proposed because of complaints about short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. The regulations would go into effect around December. Two public input sessions took place regarding this issue and several more will occur before a final decision is made.
According to Spruill, the regulation is a compromise. It states that a person cannot own more than two short-term rentals, but they can rent the property out for as many days as they want.
Additionally, Spruill said short-term rental owners must register and get a $25 permit in order to rent out their properties. The people who live in the surrounding areas must be notified when a property is being rented out. There will also be a 1% sales tax on short-term rentals that goes toward the city of Starkville.
“We are trying to figure out what compromise works the best for everyone involved,” Spruill said.
Those in support of the regulations state current Airbnbs do not belong in a residential neighborhood and need to follow a certain procedure. Bert Montgomery, a Starkville resident who is in support of the regulations, said short-term rentals are businesses and should follow the same procedure as other businesses.
According to Montgomery, people are concerned about protecting the residential zoning of a neighborhood. He said if a person wants to open up a business, they should be re-zoned since outside clients and traffic will come into the area.
“When we bought a house, we expected to be living next to people who bought a house to live there,” Montgomery said. “I have lived in apartments and a rental house. When you buy a house for your family in a residential neighborhood, there is a different expectation about the kind of neighbors you will have and noise you will have.”
Montgomery said people are concerned because houses are being rented out to college students and different people are coming and going every semester. Houses are typically not taken care of because students only live there for a short amount of time.
Montgomery said people noticed the walkways are blocked and a large amount of traffic comes into the neighborhood from renters. He said he knows of people who complain of the noise and renter’s lack of concern for the area.
Those in opposition say the regulations will hinder Starkville's development and the types of people that use Airbnbs. Dorothy Watson, a Starkville real estate agent who owns both long-term and short-term rentals, said Airbnbs impact Starkville in a positive way.
A variety of people use short-term rentals such as families with infants, alumni, families moving in between homes, those who need quiet environments and many other people.
Watson said these regulations target short-term rental owners because long-term rental owners would not have to go through the same procedure.
According to Watson, people think these houses are not taken care of, but they are actually held to a higher standard. Short-term renters may not care for rental houses, but rental owners do because they have to be in good condition for them to be rented out.
Watson said when visitors stay in Airbnbs for football games or campus visits, they get to experience a different part of Starkville that is unique from a hotel. They are in the middle of beautiful areas of town, and this allows them to have a positive impression of the city and want to come back.
“The regulations will affect the tourism in Starkville, the businesses that benefit from tourism such as taxis, Uber, restaurants and retail stores. It affects the homeowners that make ends meet by renting their homes,” Watson said. “We are a tourism-based town, so it will also affect Mississippi State and ticket purchases.”
This discussion is ongoing, and people can still voice their stance. Spruill said speaking at public hearings and writing emails and letters are opportunities for Starkville residents to make their opinion heard.