Airbnb ordinance defeated in Maplewood

Following debate, an ordinance that would have allowed short term vacation rentals (Airbnb and similar rentals) was defeated at the Maplewood City Council meeting on Aug. 11.

Councilpersons Karen Wood, Fred Wolf and Mayor James White opposed the ordinance while councilpersons David Cerven, Timothy Dunn and Shawn Faulkingham voted in favor of the ordinance. Councilman Barry Greenberg was absent and since the vote was tied, rules state the ordinance fails automatically. Maplewood Planning and Zoning unanimously approved the ordinance in July.

Maplewood, Missouri

Maplewood, Missouri

Nick and Adelina Deccio are city residents and supported the ordinance.

“I’m thankful for progressive council members like David Cerven,” said Mr. Deccio. “The sharing economy is a new idea. It’s like the horse and buggy. People thought cars were death traps at first.”

Mrs. Deccio added, “Passing this ordinance would have provided safety and regulations.”

Mayor White opposed the measure based on safety concerns.

“I think [Airbnbs] are dangerous,” said White. “It’s not fair to other residents to have potentially dangerous people like serial rapists or pedophiles staying here.”

Councilman Dunn agreed that there are safety concerns, but argued that if the ordinance was approved, the city could “establish control and regulation” to ensure safety. He went on to ask if city resources would be used to check websites like Airbnb to make sure there were no Maplewood listings.

“Are people going to do it anyway?” Dunn asked. “The city has no way to be involved. Are we going to have someone on the Internet to check and then have people go out and address it? Are city staff going to check?”

Councilman Faulkingham added, “Do we want it go to on without our knowing? At least if it’s regulated, the police know. From a life safety issue, it’s better to know.”

Faulkingham went on to point out that there is no hotel or other overnight accommodations in Maplewood. “We want people here, shopping in our downtown, eating and drinking in our restaurants. There’s no place for them to stay.”

Councilman Cerven acknowledged these short term rentals are “potentially risky” but that the city allows other risky behavior but governs such behavior.

“People drive cars and die in car accidents,” Cerven said. “But we govern how people drive cars to make the behavior safer.”

The city council can revisit the ordinance in six months if planning and zoning reintroduce the measure.

41 thoughts on “Airbnb ordinance defeated in Maplewood

  1. Mayor White’s comment about pedophiles and serial rapists is beyond idiotic. When a person checks into a hotel or motel, does he/she have a background check? NO! As someone who has a lot of experience with the shared economy, I KNOW airbnb guests are fine people. Did the mayor take time to even look at their website? If he had, he would see that guests and hosts are all vetted/background checked and, therefore NOT pedophiles and/or serial rapists!!!

  2. Strange that legislation would be needed for Airbnb. The whole idea started from people sleeping on couches and floors when you didn’t want to pay for more formal lodging. I wasn’t even aware that a license would be needed unless you obtained rentals/income over a certain limit. I have stayed in multiple Airbnb’s and know that none of the owners had an official business. The whole point of the service is that your empty home can be better utilized.

    If people want to use the service to broadcast their formal BnB that is fine; those higher volume & licensed BnB businesses should be able to do so. But legislating the need for a license when people only use it for a portion of their house is a bit of the cart before the horse, and misses the point of the ‘sharing economy’ a bit.

  3. Other cities are flourishing with air b&b and uber. The mayor of Mayplewood seems very antiquated. Using the argument that there would be rapists/criminals running around maplewood is insane and sounds like he wants to close this area off to locals. Visitors means business and commerce! I know the last time I went out of town, I didn’t stay cooped up in my room the whole time. I explored and SPENT.

  4. Maplewood is a perfect community for B&B’s. Friends who offer their lovely Michigan home on airbnb love it and it provides a lot of work for them but much-appreciated retirement income. Surely those who maintain historic homes in Maplewood deserve that opportunity. I am very disappointed with my representatives who voted against this, and with the Mayor arranging to have his vote count. My memory of Roberts’ Rules of Order is that he should have voted only in case of a tie–not to create one!

  5. To address a recent comment so this is fresh:

    It is very disappointing to see the lack of respect by the Mayor for the Political Process.

    A couple comments about the progressive comment by Lincoln Douglas. The idea of having the ordinance passed was so that there would be regulation of these businesses. The ordinance required paying and filing for a business license with the city of Maplewood. The ordinance also dictated that there could be no more than 2 rooms rented and not to exceed the occupancy limit, so for example, if two people lived there, they could only rent to two additional occupants. Further, the ordinance required homeowners to live and be present on the property. So while, I agree about not wanting a Motel, Hotel, or B&B in a residential neighborhood, a short term rental as written here, comes no where close to the same impact. In fact, there really is no difference between renting short term and renting long term other than the duration.

    As far as skirting taxes and regulations go. Airbnb files a 1099 for every operator that uses their website. We pay federal and state income taxes. Also, the state and county require remittance of Sales and Use Tax which amounts to roughly 10% (the city does not have a tax for this). So to summarize, the idea behind having this bill passed was to actually enforce what you are describing.

    I hope this addresses some of your concerns. I would be happy to send a copy of the proposed ordinance as it was written.

  6. I was disappointed hearing this because letting out rooms is not new to Maplewood. The previous owners of my home and my neighbor’s home rented out rooms in the 30’s and 40’s. My neighbor’s 2nd and 3rd story bedroom doors still have room numbers under many coats of paint. It worked for us before. Why not now?

  7. While I am pleased that this ordinance was defeated, I appreciate neither the mayor’s rhetoric nor the procedural means by which it was defeated. The mayor’s comments sound more like Fox News talking points, or perhaps my crazy uncle, than thoughtful debate. This issue should be debated (thoughtfully) and decided by the full council, not simply a quorum.
    But to be honest, I don’t want a hotel/motel/B&B in my neighborhood at all, although I could see one going into one of our many areas that are already zoned for commercial activity. It is a little odd that we have no lodging at all, but neither do many nearby municipalities (e.g., Webster, Shrewsbury, Affton). Still, living in a tourist destination is no fun. I like my town to be sans tourists. The tourists already have The Loop and Laclede’s Landing. I think we can safely say we don’t want to replicate either of those in Maplewood.
    And to those crying in the name of progressivism: A progressive society regulates business to protect the customers and local citizens and to protect the integrity of the tax base. The Airbnb business model (and the sharing economy in general) tends to skirt local ordinances and contribute to the erosion of regulatory integrity. A true progressive would never advocate a business that does not follow regulations, buy insurance, establish accountability, or pay taxes.

    • I largely agree and get your concerns. Needs to be regulated so people can’t become aloof slumlords. At the same time, I don’t think that letting a hand full of people rent out rooms will turn us into the Loop or the Landing. I don’t see this opening up to more than a small number of BnB’s.

    • Well spoken comment, but I will add that the whole point of this ordinance was to bring regulation to a currently unrelated business. This ordinance would have protected citizens guests and hosts, I do believe south 40 has a link to the full ordinance in another article.

    • Thanks for the well written comment Lincoln. It is very disappointing to see the lack of respect by the Mayor for the Political Process.

      A couple comments about the progressive comment. The idea of having the ordinance passed was so that there would be regulation of these businesses. The ordinance required paying and filing for a business license with the city of Maplewood. The ordinance also dictated that there could be no more than 2 rooms rented and not to exceed the occupancy limit, so for example, if two people lived there, they could only rent to two additional occupants. Further, the ordinance required homeowners to live and be present on the property. So while, I agree about not wanting a Motel, Hotel, or B&B in a residential neighborhood, a short term rental as written here, comes no where close to the same impact. In fact, there really is no difference between renting short term and renting long term other than the duration.

      As far as skirting taxes and regulations go. Airbnb files a 1099 for every operator that uses their website. We pay federal and state income taxes. Also, the state and county require remittance of Sales and Use Tax which amounts to roughly 10% (the city does not have a tax for this). So to summarize, the idea behind having this bill passed was to actually enforce what you are describing.

      I hope this addresses some of your concerns. I would be happy to send a copy of the proposed ordinance as it was written.

  8. I agree with the previous comments. Let’s get some change in our local government and take our city back from our regressive mayor.

    • In my experience dealing with the city council Wood, Wolf, and White will not seriously consider citizen comments if they already have their minds made up and would be happy to just drop that part of the council agenda. Compromise and negotiation are not their forte.

  9. My sister is trying for short term rentals in the city – she informed that another short term company is suing cities that oppose it! Serial rapists? How goofy is that? ???!!!! –not fair that they voted without the whole council there…..

  10. “I think [Airbnbs] are dangerous,” said White. “It’s not fair to other residents to have potentially dangerous people like serial rapists or pedophiles staying here.”

    Personally, I’m much more afraid that Jim White is our Mayor than I am of a “Serial Rapist” spending the weekend.

    Hopefully this publicity about yet ANOTHER small-minded, idiotic and fear mongering action by Mayor White will be a catalyst for CHANGE. White will term out and can’t run for another term next cycle, but as Voters the responsibility to elect representative that share our vision for our City is Ours.

    • Why wait until he terms out? Let’s recall this guy and get someone in there who has a vision for the city.

  11. How do they think rapists only use short term rentals? I have rentals there, and no one requires me to do background checks. I do them, but not because of regulations. So anyone who rents to someone there could be renting to a criminal whether short or long term. I don’t understand them. We need something like AirBnB. I have friends that use it all the time. They love it.

  12. I honestly believe we need to recall the Mayor, as someone stated earlier, he did a good job in the beginning, but he has completely lost base with community of Maplewood. His hateful approach to everything is really becoming apparent. It is not just limited to the Airbnb proposal, but the comments he has made about transgender individuals and the equality act that thankfully he has not been able to railroad like he did the Airbnb proposal. We are tired of this Mayor White…..shape up or ship out.

    • For those thinking Mayor White had anything to do with the previous improvements in Maplewood – Think Again. It was the PREVIOUS Mayor, Mark Langston, that got us started in the right director. Unfortunately, some of the improvements he initiated came to fruition after he left office and Mayor White got the publicity – often to things he opposed. When Maplewood was trying to clean up it’s act it was Police Chief White bringing disgrace to our City on the news. Does nobody remember this but me?????

  13. Kudos to P&Z for being thoughtful in their consideration of the ordinance and for listening to the community they represent.

    Shame on the council, specifically Mayor White, for disregarding P&Zs recommendations. Again, White lumps all community members together with an asinine, irrelevant comment.

    I will certainly be voicing my opinion with my vote in the next election and at future meetings. I hope everyone else does the same.

  14. It’s clear to me that Mayor White is no longer in touch with Maplewood community and is not the right person keep Maplewood progressive.

    It also seems clear that the mayor is ignorant on this subject in particular and made little effort to educate himself.

    Furthermore, his refusal to table the issue so that the entire board could be present to vote shows his disregard for honoring a true democratic process.

    I strongly urge everyone to reach out to the mayor and to the council members that voted no and express your disappointment. Contact info is here:
    http://www.cityofmaplewood.com/index.aspx?nid=110

    We need new blood on the council which means citizens need to run. Karen Wood was voted back in in April because nobody ran against her.

    • So what would you consider the mayor’s most shining moment? Opposing food trucks in downtown? Opposing Maplewood’s anti-discrimination legislation based on sexual orientation?Supporting the QT move (including his disparaging remarks about the school board) which has led to more fast food chains wanting to move to this corner?
      Should we consider this progressive leadership?

  15. My sister owns a two family in a hip nabe in Chicago. Her In-laws lived in the 2nd unit until about a year ago when they moved out of the country. They immediately opted to try the Airbnb route vs renting/leasing. They love it……people from all over the world come and stay there, some rent for two weeks at a time. They only rent it out when they want to. Maplewood’s central location to our region and walkability make it a very viable Airbnb candidate. It will pass in six months. Too bad it didn’t this time around. Maybe by that time Uber will be up and running in our region too. I agree, contact Mr. Corcoran, Mayor White and/or your Ward rep and share your feelings on this not passing.

  16. Airbnb: The best way for pedophiles and serial (must be serial, guys, come on) rapists to explore the beautiful community of Maplewood.

    Thank you, Mayor White, for that brilliant soundbite.

    • I wonder if the Mayor is familiar with the internet… there are “sex perverts” inside our homes, as we speak… where was the Mayor when it came to protecting us from fiber-optic cable and cell phone towers!!!

      Thank goodness we have a convenient new gas station next to our high school, just the Mayor making sure “sex perverts” fill up and get on their way.

      Mayor White: HOLD A FAIR VOTE!!
      Win an fight the right way, not on a 3 to 3 (+7 P&Z) “tie”.

  17. “I think [Airbnbs] are dangerous,” said White. “It’s not fair to other residents to have potentially dangerous people like serial rapists or pedophiles staying here.”

    I’m disappointed that this kind of statement is coming from a leader in our community. It’s alarmist and nonsensical. There’s no ordinance as far as I am aware that requires a person to have a clear criminal history prior to becoming a residence of Maplewood, so how could we even bring up the matter in regards to visitors? Ironically, several residents on my street complained to the city about a convicted and registered sex offender renting on our block, we were told there was nothing to be done about it (thankfully he moved recently).

    The last thing I’m worried about are Airbnb guests.

  18. Didn’t I read in a prior 40SouthNews article about this that one of the council members works in the hospitality/lodging industry. Wouldn’t this present a conflict of interest in his/her vote to deny AirBnB to Maplewood?

    • “Member, Sandi Phillips, said she is in the hotel industry, which she said is concerned about Airbnb because neither the guests or hosts can be confirmed by the other. She said she knew of one instance where a guest had damaged a host’s home.”

      40southnews.com/maplewood-pz-no-to-airbnb-com/

      • Yeah, that was awhile ago. We were able to work with Sandi on the matter. Sandi is on the P&Z and she voted for the ordinance at the P&Z meeting. She was a very fair throughout the process.

  19. After multiple sessions to refine this ordinance, and a unanimous vote by the 7-member Planning and Zoning Commission (comprised of Maplewood residents), to see this ordinance fail on a tie seems is very disappointing. When the Mayor was asked by Councilman Cerven to table the vote until all members could be present, the Mayor, Ms. Wood, and Mr. Wolf all declined. To prevent a vote by all elected council members seems an injustice to the spirit of a representative democracy. I urge everyone to contact Marty Corcoran and your Ward representative to ask them for a re-vote with all council members present.

  20. The idea of Maplewood being a progressive town is sadly far from reality. Progressive would imply that Maplewood is supporting issues like Air BnB years ago when they first discussed and being accepted in many large cities. Here we are, long after Air BnB has successfully been implemented, still wrestling with the concept.

    Terrible shame that this vote was done with Barry Greenberg absent. We would be reading a different article. So, until 6 more months when the P&Z reintroduces the topic (again unanimously in favor), the best word to describe this is “embarrassment.”

  21. Yes, this was very disappointing. I encourage everyone to contact Marty Corcoran, the city manager, and the Mayor to ask them to have a vote at the next meeting when all council members are present.

  22. This is a sad decision. Maplewood has no lodging accommodations currently. The city would benefit from having visitors staying in Maplewood. Visitors will be more likely to shop and spend their money in Maplewood if they are staying there.

    This is a backward-thinking decision.

    St. Louis really needs to stop being years behind the times. The sharing economy is the future. Allow Uber/Lyft/Sidecar and AirBnB in St. Louis.

  23. I think it is time for change on the council. We need more members like David Cerven, Shawn Faulkingham and Timothy Dunn. It is time to replace the James White, Karen Wood and Fred Wolf as they continue to negatively impact the city of Maplewood. They have done a good job getting Maplewood back to respectability, but lack the vision to get the city to the next step. James White has shown that he is willing to work with Large corporations (McDonalds, Tim Hortons, QT, etc) that congest traffic and dilute what makes Maplewood special, yet he refuses to look at ways to progress the city further.

    • Don’t forget Greenberg! He’s been very progressive on many issues and has often been the sole dissenting voice on issues that need critical thought.

      Proud that he represents my ward.