Community

A Louisville Metro planning committee will not fast-track a proposal to regulate where short-term rental units can be located across the city.

The committee on Thursday morning began examining a proposal from city planners to establish a new zoning policy for such rental units, which are available through services such as Airbnb, FlipKey and VBRO.

After nearly two hours of discussion, committee members opted to schedule a follow-up meeting to allow for more community input.

Planners are seeking to fulfill an aspect of an ordinance previously approved by the Metro Council that requires an update to the city’s extensive land development code. The change would designate which zoning districts the short-term rental units would be allowed in, potentially limiting homeowners’ options to use the online services.

The proposal presented to the committee included several provisions that would change the way the services operate in Louisville:

  • Rental units that are the primary residence of the host would be permitted in all residential zoning districts — as long as renters stay no more than 29 days, no food or alcohol is provided, and the number of renters does not exceed “two times the number of bedrooms plus four individuals,” among other stipulations.
  • Short-term rental units that are not the host’s primary residence would require a conditional-use permit to operate in residential zoning districts.
  • Any short-term rental unit would be allowed in commercial zoning districts. Industrial districts would be off-limits for short-term rentals.

Committee members were stumped by the prospects of regulating parking or inspections of short-term rental units.

Attorney Steve Porter specializes in land-use regulation and represented bed-and-breakfast interests in earlier fights to regulate short-term rentals more like B&Bs and hotels. He asked the committee to organize a task force of short-term rental owners, neighborhood representatives and other members of the hospitality community to conduct an in-depth examination of the proposal.

Porter said the proposed zoning policy is a blanket ordinance that wouldn’t do justice to individual neighborhood characteristics.

“One neighborhood might say, ‘we’ve got parking all over the place, no problem,'” he said. “Another might say, ‘our biggest problem is parking.'”

Porter is calling for each short-term rental unit to go before the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment for a conditional-use permit before being allowed to operate. He said he’s concerned allowing short-term rentals anywhere could change the character of neighborhoods.

Short-term rental owner Faith Hope Yascone dismissed that notion. She said it’s unlikely entire neighborhoods would be overrun by short-term rental units, many of which are occupied by owners most of the time.

“If it does, it was not a neighborhood that was ever viable in the first place,” she said.

She said clamping down on short-term rentals could stifle a burgeoning sector of economic development in Louisville.

“They need to really understand the benefits of what’s going to happen here,” she said. “It’s more of a community builder.”

The planning committee is scheduled to reconsider the proposal on March 24 at 10 a.m. If the committee approves it, the full planning commission would have to approve before it could reach a Metro Council committee.

Ultimately, the full council must approve the changes.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.