The Waunakee Village Board will consider regulations for short-term rentals, or Airbnb’s, but will first gather public comment at a public hearing.

Trustees discussed the matter at the July 15 village board meeting, as attorney Bryan Kleinmaier explained the options.

Regulations can be implemented to collect room taxes on short-term rentals, and municipalities can further regulate them either by requiring a license or adapting their zoning ordinance to require a conditional use permit.

“We do not have the authority to be able to prohibit them,” Kleinmaier said about Airbnb’s. “We can require them to be rented for seven consecutive days. You can’t require them to rented more than seven days, per Wisconsin statutes.”

Provisions can also be put in place regarding parking, but in terms of noise, municipalities already have regulations in place.

Trustees expressed mixed opinions about Airbnb’s. Trustee Gary Herzberg asked if a subdivision’s covenants can prohibit them.

Kleinmaier said while the statutes limit municipalities from taking such action, he believed a subdivision could prohibit them.

“I haven’t seen it litigated,” he added.

Kleinmaier said while some cities and villages adopt a room tax and a conditional use process for their operation, others adopt a room tax and a licensing process. The state does require Airbnb’s to be licensed, he said.

“It’s kind of a tough issue. You want to be able to have choices for people,” Herzberg said about the accommodations for visitors. But, he added, neighbors may not welcome parties every weekend next door.

Kleinmaier said the issue comes before municipal boards by neighbors who are upset by the noise and parking concerns.

Trustee Bill Ranum asked about a decrease in property values, and also asked if fees would apply for licenses. He also asked about additional fees for added safety protection.

“This issue is coming before municipal boards typically because there have been these short-term rentals, and it has upset the neighbors, and so then the neighbors call the staff of the elected officials and then we end up having a discussion like this,” Kleinmaier said. “But I am not aware of circumstances where the complaints have escalated to the point where they have had to call police or EMS services. The concerns I’ve heard are more related to noise, related to parking and related to concerns, and frankly like Gary raised, where all of a sudden you have people walking in and out of a home that are not the people who bought the house.”

Ranum noted that one Airbnb could drop the home values of a whole neighborhood.

“You have a party every weekend, that house isn’t worth what it was,” Ranum said.

Herzberg added that even if a subdivision’s covenants prohibited Airbnb’s, a homeowner’s association may not have the authority to limit those rentals.

“I would ask anyone sitting in the room if you were a homeowner, would you want short-term rentals next door? And I don’t know what the answer is going to be. I know that my answer is no, that I wouldn’t want my house to have short-term rentals next to it on a regular basis,” said Village President Chris Zellner.

Zellner said he would be in favor of making them as inconvenient as possible, or as Ranum said, to disincentivize them.

Trustee Erin Moran said she liked the idea of offering visitors to Waunakee a choice in places to stay.

“Waunakee has great events,” Moran said, adding it also has a number of businesses to visit. “Maybe it could be useful. We are close to the airport.”

Trustee Phil Willems he hoped the village could at least collect a room tax and could limit the stay to a certain number of days.

Kleinmaier said the agenda item was not listed as a public hearing to gather comment, but the board could place the matter on a future agenda to do so.

Village board members agreed to that option.

For a related story, visit the website at waunakeetribune.com.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board:

-was presented with flag, citation and book on birds as being the 110th municipality of Bird City USA.

-approved a rezone request from Groundswell Conservancy rezoning land at the corner of Hwy. 19 and Hellenbrand Road from agricultural use to conservancy.

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