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Why Conway is considering regulation of Airbnb-style renting and what it could entail

Conway wants to show Southern hospitality, but it doesn’t want short-term renters to be bad neighbors.

The City of Conway could rein in Airbnb and other home-sharing apps in the near future. During Monday’s meeting, the city council’s development committee instructed staff on what it would like to see from a future ordinance regulating this type of overnight lodging.

Typically, a potential renter will go to a website, like airbnb.com, and search for available homes to rent for a few days in lieu of more traditional accommodations.

Currently, the city has near 15 homes being renting out through online applications. Unlike Charleston, Asheville and other cities, Conway does not have any regulations on these types of home rentals, according to city planning Director Mary Catherine Hyman.

Hotels, permanent rental properties and true bed-and-breakfast establishments are regulated. Even “granny suites” intended for elderly family members are not eligible for renting outside the family.

New regulations on the Airbnb style of renting could require the homeowner to be present while the renters are there, regulate areas in which homes can be rented and necessitate adjustments to business license regulations to make the renting process more official.

The hope would be to create as little impact as possible on the neighbors surrounding the homes. Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy said if it is done right, it shouldn’t create much of a visible impact in a community.

Blain-Bellamy said now is a good time to look at regulating the practice before it becomes a bigger issue. To date, The city has received one complaint against a home operating on 9th avenue. Council member William Goldfinch said the issue there dealt with people cursing, smoking and being obnoxious in a residential area.

Goldfinch said a friend of his in Charleston rents his house to Airbnb customers and funds his mortgage payments with it. The difference is Charleston is more of a tourist area than Conway, he said.

“At a beach house you’d expect that, but if you moved to Conway you do not,” Council member Shane Hubbard said.

Council member Jean Timbes said she doesn’t like the idea of anyone renting in any neighborhood. She said people should look for hotels or bed-and-breakfasts that have a permanent care keeper on site. One of her main concerns is the strain this type of rental could create for city police.

“I feel I can’t vote for something if I wouldn’t want it next to me,” she said.

Moving forward, city staff will begin creating an ordinance based off council concerns and what regulations have worked in other cities. It will be brought back in front council for further review before the regulations can be enacted into law.

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