City mulls over Airbnb regulations

In Dane County, 2018 Airbnb host income was $5.5 million with 44,000 guests—the second-highest revenue behind Milwaukee County.

Airbnbs have opened doors from coast to coast to travelers but Sun Prairie officials want to regulate the home rental business before it gets a stronger foothold in the city.

The Airbnbs site lists less than a handful of Sun Prairie rentals but alders say they’ve received neighbors’ complaints of noise, traffic and unfamiliar people staying at short-term rental spots.

With no city ordinances to regulate Airbnbs and short-term rentals, the City of Sun Prairie is eyeing restrictions that use other municipalities’ ordinances as a model.

The City of Madison has an agreement with Airbnb to collect room tax that ends up in the city’s coffers. Airbnbs and other short-term rental owners are also required to follow Madison zoning rules, get a public health department license and contact the Department of Revenue to set up tax collections.

Alders Maureen Crombie (District 3) and Mary Polenske (District 4) — both members of the Public Safety Committee — say they’ve both had complaints from residents in their districts about short-term rental housing.

Crombie said she’s not against Airbnbs and has had good experiences when using them herself, but she wants regulations and for the city to get some revenue from the rentals.

In 2017, Airbnb came to an agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue that allows Airbnb to collect and remit Wisconsin sales tax on the host’s behalf. Airbnb reports that has delivered $2.5 million to the state in tax revenue.

The company also has an agreement with Madison, Green Bay and Racine to collect room taxes. In Dane County, 2018 Airbnb host income was $5.5 million with 44,000 guests — the second-highest revenue behind Milwaukee County.

Aldermanic concerns have prompted Sun Prairie police, fire, building inspection and planning departments to look into short-term rentals in the city.

Acting Police Chief Brian Teasdale reported in April that it was difficult to track specific short-term rental complaints, but during the last year, there were six service calls with one warning issued for noise.

Teasdale said, based on that data, there didn’t seem to be a large issue with short-term rentals.

At the June 25 Public Safety Committee meeting, Polenske asked city staff to come up with a plan for proposed regulations.

“There are ways that we can be more knowledgeable about what is going in on our community and you are the folks that I am looking for to bring something forward to us,” Polenske said.

An update is expected at an upcoming Public Safety Committee.

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