Kenosha says Airbnbs will stay unregulated in city

After a long debate, the Kenosha City Council voted down a measure that would have made some homeowners get a license. That permit would have been for people who wanted to rent out a room or their home on websites like Airbnb.

The ordinance was proposed after some east side neighbors started complaining to aldermen that more than just visitors were coming to stay at Airbnbs. Some of the home renters turned the temporary residences into party homes, and neighbors say they were left to suffer.

"It was a loud and ongoing party at 2 o'clock in the morning. I mean it woke people," said Mary Matthews, who lives across the street from an Airbnb."

"My son and daughter-in-law were staying with me and at 2:30 or 3 in the morning they were awakened by a party going on," said Geoff Dowse, about the Airbnb near his home.

The east side residents say more and more Airbnbs are popping up along the lake. Alderman Jan Michalski says those rentals are unregulated, and some with persistent problems. The proposed ordinance would charge unoccupied Airbnb rentals $100 a year, and owner-occupied rentals $50 a year for a permit.

"This is a method of tracking the problem and tracking it to the actual residence and the owner of the residence," said Ald. Michalski.

But former Airbnb operator Margaret Heller says those issues are rare. She ran an Airbnb for two years while trying to sell her home. She says with so few hotels down by the lake, it brings more visitors into the city. She says most operate without neighbors even realizing it.

"Families would stay would here for a marathon, or they would stay here for Carthage College graduation," said Heller.

Those against the ordinance, and even some aldermen, say there are laws in place including the nuisance ordinance that can deal with problems at an Airbnb without creating a new law.

"It's just another tax and they are going to make money off it," said Heller.

A lot of alderman said they liked the idea of a permit, but the ordinance needed to be clearer. They asked for it to be brought back again. Ald. Michalski said he didn't know if or when that would happen.

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