Airbnb will need to get approval of adjustment board to operate

Published 3:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2018

The owner of a home that was being rented without a business license has requested for the city to grant him license to resume operations, but the issue must first come before the Board of Adjustments.

City Clerk Alton Starling said the owner, Matt West, sent a request to the city for a business license after the city sent him a cease and desist letter last week notifying him that he could not rent out the Spradley Dr. home without a business license.

Starling said he is not authorized, however, to grant the license due to the zoning of the home.

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“I don’t have the authority to issue that type of license in that zone,” Starling said. “So I sent it to the board of adjustments. They will have to look at whether to approve that or not.”

Starling said the board sent a letter to West notifying him that he could bring the matter before the board, but Starling said West has not yet responded.

The three-bedroom home was listed on the Airbnb website, which lists short-term rental listings around the globe, until the City of Troy sent the notice. The listing is no longer available.

The residence is in low-residential zoning (R1), which does not allow for the rental of “tourist homes.”

Tourist homes are defined in the zoning ordinance as a “single-family dwelling rented or leased for short-term accommodations for terms of no less than two nights nor more than six months. Such properties are typically single-family homes that vacationers can rent and occupy as if it were their own home for the duration of their stay. Such homes must still conform to occupancy requirements and regulations for the district in which they are located. For the purpose of these provisions, holiday cottages, holiday homes or vacation properties shall be considered a tourist home.”

Two other residential zones – reserved residential (RR) and high-residential (R3) – contain language that specifically provides for tourist homes on appeal. R3 zoning specifically outlines that a rooming, tourist or boarding home may not exceed 75 percent of the home.

For homes like West’s, or those in medium-residential (R2) zoning, there is no specific guideline for the permission of a tourist home, but planning administrator Melissa Sanders said all residents are welcome to come before the board of adjustments.

Multiple efforts to reach West were unsuccessful, but he said previously that he was caught off guard by the need for a business license or zoning restrictions.

“I had no clue that I would need a business license,” West said.

Starling said that West must respond in order for the matter to come before the Board of Adjustments. “It will not automatically be placed on the agenda,” he said.

If West does choose to come before the board, the meeting would serve as a public hearing on the request.

Starling said any business that operates without a license is sent a letter to cease and desist to notify the citizen that he or she is operating illegally. If the business continues to operate after the citizen has received the notification, Starling said he would then have to enforce the law by signing an arrest warrant for operating illegally.

There are currently at least four other homes in the Troy city limits on the Airbnb website, including two on Oak Street and one on Love Street, which are located in the central business district downtown. The central business district allows for a variety of businesses including hotels and multi-family residential.

The other home, located in RR zoning on Trojan Way, was granted special permission by the Board of Adjustments to rent out the residence and host events at the venue. Starling confirmed all four residences have received business licenses.

The Airbnb company was founded in 2008 in San Francisco and has grown into a worldwide network of short-term rental homes. The company has more than 5 million lodging listings on its website – and it doesn’t own any of them. Instead, individual homeowners contact Airbnb to become a host home – the company collects a 3 percent host service fee and a guest services fee of up to 20 percent for the stay.