Concerns raised about an Airbnb in the Town of Westport have prompted the Waunakee Village Board, which has zoning jurisdiction throughout much of the town, to consider taking steps to regulate these short-term rentals.

Currently, the village has no permitting process or method of collecting room taxes for these short-term rentals, but village officials have been approached by one developer who has heard concerns within a Westport subdivision, according to Village Administrator Todd Schmidt.

The state of Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection requires all lodging facilities to hold a current license, but municipalities can also regulate them to some degree if they wish, according to Bryan Kleinmaier, the village’s attorney.

“Municipalities cannot prohibit Airbnbs,” Kleinmaier said. But he added municipalities can adopt their own permitting processes or an ordinances requiring those to want to operate an Airbnb to apply for a conditional use permit to do so and to pay a room tax, as well.

Some requirements can be added to the conditional use permits, he said, such length of stay for up to seven days.

Kleinmaier represents the Village of Mount Horeb, where officials adopted an ordinance requiring Airbnbs be rented for two or more days.

“Most, if they’ve adopted an ordinance, want it be rented for multiple days,” Kleinmaier said. “I think the reason is that you want to avoid the one-night party house.”

Other municipalities choose to have no ordinance at all.

“I know municipalities have looked at the issue and said, it’s enough to us to say the state is regulating these,” Kleinmaier said. “On the flip side, you have municipalities who say we want to regulate them as strongly as we can.”

That’s because typically, Airbnbs are in residential zoning districts.

“You have John and Jane Smith who bought a single family home and next door you have a house rented all the time and there are parties there,” Kleinmaier said.

If conditional use permits are required, municipalities can place limitations on parking. All municipalities have existing noise ordinances in place, but if a conditional use permit is granted for an Airbnb and the renters exceed the noise limitations, the municipality would have the authority to review the permit, Kleinmaier said.

Kleinmaier noted that restrictions placed on the short-term rentals have to be reasonable.

“For example, you can’t impose noise restrictions on an Airbnb rental that don’t apply to all dwellings in the municipality,” he said.

Municipalities often adopt ordinances requiring short-term rentals to be licensed so officials can be aware of where these are located.

Kleinmaier said short-term rentals have become an issue in Westport, but he was unaware of any operating in Waunakee.

According to Westport’s Administrator, Attorney and Clerk-Treasurer Tom Wilson, prior to a change in state law, the town required single-family homes to be occupied by families. But a change in the state law which took effect in April now allows homeowners to rent out rooms on a short-term basis.

Wilson said some homeowners on the lake have operated short-term rentals, but the owners worked with neighbors to resolve any problems.

Other municipalities are also grappling with the issue, Wilson said, adding that he talked to another administrator at a recent Wisconsin League of Municipalities conference who mentioned in his community, a 60-year-old woman whose husband travels for work often became uneasy when her neighbor sold their home and she never met the new neighbors.

“They never really saw anybody move in. She would see maybe two people in there one day. The next day it might be four people, or it might be one person. It was kind of making her feel uncomfortable with the fact that, I don’t know who’s here,” he said.

That municipality adopted an ordinance requiring licenses for Airbnbs so records could be kept about the renters.

Wilson said the direction from Westport’s town chair was to work with the village on a possible permitting process.

The hope is that the matter will come before the village’s plan commission and the town and village’s joint plan commission, whose members can tweak whatever recommendations Wilson and Kleinmaier might propose. A discussion of Airbnb regulation is on the agenda for the July 15 village board meeting.

The issue has come up in Middleton, as well, so the town of Westport may work with that neighboring city, as well, on a permitting process, Wilson said.

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