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West Lafayette City Council passes ordinance creating additional demands on Airbnb units

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Building Commissioner Chad Spitznagle discusses how the ordinance would change existing requirements for temporary rentals (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

The West Lafayette City Council passed an ordinance Monday night that some community members argue will make it more difficult to get properties approved as temporary rentals - such as Airbnbs.

In 2017, both Lafayette and Tippecanoe County passed the same ordinance, which requires residents to get a special exception from the local Board of Zoning Appeals for temporary rental properties. At the time, the city of West Lafayette declined to do so.

West Lafayette City Council member David Sanders said the city has now decided to opt into that system. Specifically, he said making residents go before a board will give neighbors an opportunity to comment on the use of the property as an Airbnb.

“The idea is that a lot of constituents have been asking to have some input on Airbnbs coming to their neighborhood,” he said.

Under current West Lafayette rules, the owners of new rental units have to register with the city and submit their property to an inspection. The ordinance will now require an additional review from the zoning board.

Chad Spitznagle is the city’s Building Commissioner. He said in 2017, the city declined to enact an ordinance to give Airbnbs a chance.

“After a period of time we realized there are still residents in the town, in the city, that would like the ability to know what is going on next door to them,” he said.

Some residents voiced displeasure with the ordinance.

Charles Yu, whose wife owns several Airbnb properties, asked the council to vote against the ordinance – arguing that there aren’t enough hotels to meet the needs of visitors.

“This is big business, and it’s big business because there is good reason for it: there is a need,” he said.

Yu also noted that the additional requirements could easily lead to more efforts to block Airbnbs within the city.

“I strongly ask you to think twice,” he said. “This is a very slippery slope. We don’t want government into our life.”

In 2018, the state legislature passed a law stopping local governments from outright banning Airbnbs - but it does allow for some permitting requirements.

The ordinance passed 8-1.

The council’s lone no vote came from Councilmember Nick DeBoer, who said the city was clearly making it more difficult to run an Airbnb in town.

“I voted against that principally because I think we need more places to stay in the city, whether that be apartments or hotels,” he said. “...limiting this now and in the future is going to make the city more difficult to visit.”