Athens City Building

Athens City Building in Fall 2021.

Some Airbnb operators in Athens say they are looking forward to legislation that will regulate the use of short-term rentals in Athens.

Athens City Council is is currently deliberating on a proposal to regulate short-term rentals, completing a hearing on Monday and having a first reading of the group of ordinances at the last body meeting.

The proposed suit of ordinances sets requirements for short-term rentals. People who live in homes anywhere in the city could receive a permit allowing them to accommodate paying guests for less than 30 days. Nonresident property owners can have no more than three adult renters, plus related children, staying for less than 30 days. Additionally, nonresidents' homes must be located either on an residential lot that borders an R-2 or R-3 zone or B-zone, or it must front East State Street, Carpenter Street, Lancaster Street or Columbus Road.

Most residential neighborhoods in Athens are zoned as R-1, the lowest density residential area. However, parts of Uptown, the Ohio University campus and much of the student housing surrounding Mill Street is zoned R-3, which allows for more dense housing. R-2 zones in Athens include portions of West State and West Washington streets, as well as a small area on the south side of Richland Avenue.

Supportive council members previously said the short-term rental ordinance would regulate the presence of short-term rentals, supplement low-income households and generate revenue for the city through the hotel tax.

There are currently a number of short-term rentals listed on popular sites like Airbnb — 17 by The Athens NEWS’ count. A majority of the Airbnb rental properties currently listed appear to be owned and operated by area residents, based on profiles of property listers.

Diane McVey, an Athens resident, owns and operates two short-term rentals in Athens, one on Franklin Avenue and another on Grovesnor Street. She said she thinks the pending legislation “is a pretty good thing.”

“I actually think it's a pretty good thing they've worked out — it's a very complicated issue with some people who feel very strongly not to allow any (short-term rentals) in Athens,” McVey said.

She said she thinks the compromise that took place during the drafting process reflects the concerns of residents while balancing the rights of homeowners to use their property how they see fit.

“I think it's harder for young people to afford houses these days — that's what we want in Athens,” McVey said. “Have more owners, have more people buying houses and living in them than student rentals.”

Mitch Endick, owner of Athens Furniture on E. State Street and operator of two short-term rentals in Athens (and two outside city limits), said it was good that City Council was moving to regulate the industry.

“Some oversight is better than no oversight — guaranteed — so I think they're doing a good job,” Endick said.

Endick also said it was “inappropriate” for Airbnbs to enter R-1 neighborhoods (the lowest density) except in certain areas like along E. State Street.

Tyler Schloss, co-owner of White’s Mill, operates part of the historic property as an Airbnb that offers accommodations for eight people. Schloss said the property falls in a business zone so it will not be held to standards applying to R-1 properties.

He said his business has had positive experiences with guests — with no “party house” guests — saying the business and Airbnb vet guests.

As for the limits on maximum guests under the new ordinance, Schloss said the business could possibly apply for some sort of variance.

Ally Rapp Lee, realtor at Athens Real Estate, operates an Airbnb on the intersection of Shafer and W. State Street, located in a B zone.

“I mean in general, I am happy for property owners to do what they reasonably want with their property,” Rapp Lee said.

At the property, she said she has tried to be good stewards of the property as a courtesy to her neighbors (even though she doesn’t live there), and has had only one problem with a noisy guest since offering the property as a short-term rental.

“I've enjoyed it quite a lot — I love Athens and welcoming people to the area is rewarding,” Rapp Lee said.

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