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Some homeowners frustrated as opposition to Airbnb rentals builds in West Lafayette

Mayor John Dennis and Mayor-elect Erin Easter have both voiced concerns about Airbnb rentals within the city (FILE PHOTO: WBAA/Ben Thorp)
Mayor John Dennis and Mayor-elect Erin Easter have both voiced concerns about Airbnb rentals within the city (FILE PHOTO: WBAA/Ben Thorp)

As opposition against AirBnbs grows in West Lafayette, some homeowners are frustrated by the blowback.

Local officials – including West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis – have spoken against the short-term rentals.

Both Dennis and Mayor-elect Erin Easter have voiced opposition to approving Airbnb rentals in the city's downtown.

Easter said especially with the city suffering a housing shortage, it doesn’t make sense to use the existing stock for short-term rentals.

“And if we have housing that already can be used for single-family housing, that’s really how it should be used,” she said.

Laura Korty has a West Lafayette property she has been trying to turn into an Airbnb. She said she’s frustrated that the city is pointing to Airbnb rentals as the problem.

“I guess I feel like it was very short-sighted of our government officials to not see the housing shortage coming,” she said.

With a number of new companies coming to the region, such as SkyWater Technology, Korty said housing needs should have been part of the city’s plans.

“So you bring in all these companies, again, knowing they didn’t have housing for all these people who are going to relocate here for those jobs and then try to tell me that no government or developer could have planned or anticipated this rapid change,” she said.

Airbnbs ultimately need to be approved by the Tippecanoe County Board of Zoning Appeals.

Facing community opposition, the most recent board meetings have seen an uptick in the denial of Airbnb applications.

Michelle Dennis is a member of the zoning appeals board through the end of the year, when she will take up a seat on the West Lafayette City Council. She said she’s always voted on Airbnb exemptions on a case-by-case basis – evaluating whether neighbors and neighborhoods make sense to host a permanent rental option.

“I think the thing that’s shifted is just the amount of requests we’ve gotten recently,” she said. “I’ve been on the board for probably two or three years now and we just didn’t really have them. It seems in the past few months our entire docket is now almost entirely filled with Airbnb requests.”

When Dennis was asked how she would respond to people who feel they should be able to use their property how they see fit, she said she understands that perspective.

“But that’s why we have zoning laws to begin with at all,” she said. “There is a concept that we are a community and we have a commitment to try and shape that community so it benefits the majority of people that live there.”