Rexburg residents voiced diverse opinions about the use of Airbnb in the community for over three hours during the City Council meeting, at City Hall, on Sept. 21
Airbnb is an online company that allows people all over the world to list their homes and other property online for travelers to rent short-term, according to airbnb.com.
Some residents said they were concerned about Airbnb in Rexburg. These concerns included the loss of community identity, strangers coming and going from neighbors’ houses, and disturbances of the peace.
Other residents said they supported the program. They said Airbnb benefits themselves, their family, travelers and the community.
Current city zoning does not allow vacation rentals in low-density residential areas, and Airbnb is defined as a vacation rental, according to City Council Minutes.
Residents against Airbnb said they supported zoning laws as they are. They said Rexburg needs to have defined residential areas to protect the community’s identity, according to City Council Minutes.
“If we allow Airbnb to come in, it’s going to affect all of Rexburg,” said Ilene Olsen, a Rexburg resident of 33 years, according to City Council Minutes. “I feel like we have to be strong and stand up for our neighborhoods and protect them.”
Airbnb supporters said they were frustrated with the conflict they see between zoning laws and private property rights, according to City Council Minutes. Supporters said they have the right to use their private property as long as it does not interfere with their neighbors.
Supporters said that the use of their private property is similar to those who offer piano lessons in their home and other stay-at-home businesses, according to City Council Minutes.
“Families rent their houses to sunbirds, couples on missions rent their houses, and families host foreign exchange students and dancers for the International Dance Festival,” said Maria Nate, a Rexburg resident who lives in a low density residential area. “Having visitors in our community has been done for ages, why is it a problem now?”
Residents in support of Airbnb said short-term rentals bring benefits to not only themselves but also to the community as a whole, according to City Council Minutes.
“It has provided many homeowners the opportunity to make an income renting rooms out of their homes,” Nate said. “People from other states and countries have had the opportunity to stay and feel the goodness of Rexburg. Dozens of Books of Mormon have been placed and friendships have been cultivated.”
Nate stayed at an Airbnb home in Ketchikan, Alaska, to visit her daughter. She said the experience was inexpensive, close to where she wanted to be and worked for her overall.
“An important thing to note is the economic benefit, both to the individual as well as the city,” said John Snell, a Rexburg resident. “People are finding a way to generate income in a city where it can be very hard to find a good paying job. If one wants to grow an economy, funneling outside resources into the city is a great place to start.”
Notice of the use of Airbnb in the Rexburg area was brought before the City Council on July 6.
Complaints about the vacation rentals led to city officials closing all Airbnb homes in Rexburg. The homes were in areas that were not zoned for vacation rentals, according to the City Council Minutes.
“We feel like we want to take a little more time, study the issue out a little bit more,” Merrill. “Maybe look at what other cities are doing and evaluate whether that’s the way we want to go, or is it not the way we want to go. We want to do what’s right for Rexburg.”