South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Sunset Hills indefinitely postpones bill addressing Airbnbs, short-term rentals

Residents upset aldermen allowing rentals to continue

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to indefinitely postpone its Airbnb ordinance Aug. 9.

The move is in anticipation of House Bill 1662 going into effect this month. According to City Attorney Erin Seele, HB 1662 addresses businesses, so the city’s new Unified Development Ordinance focuses on land use and effectively outlaws Airbnbs in the city — the ordinance addressing short-term rentals that was postponed is in a legal gray area. The board also heard the first reading of the updated UDO rewrite at the Aug. 9 meeting.

The Airbnb issue has been a focus of the board for a few months, starting at the introduction of the issue in May. It was introduced by Mayor Pat Fribis in response to an Airbnb home in her neighborhood. It was then postponed two separate times before being postponed indefinitely due to HB 1662 and debates about current city code. 

In June the board decided to allow the owners of the house to finish their already scheduled rentals through Oct. 23, a decision that was not supported by residents of the Sunset Greens subdivision, many of whom showed up at the Aug. 9 meeting.

“This decision appears to be in clear violation of Sunset Hills ordinances, essentially allowing the homeowners to break the law through October. This decision appears to have been made out of fear. What do you have to be fearful of? They are breaking the law,” a letter from Sunset Greens trustees stated. 

The letter cited safety, traffic and noise concerns with having an Airbnb in the neighborhood — concerns shared by several speakers during public comment.

“We’re certainly not excited about having people across the street we don’t know. We want to have neighbors, we want to have people that we know,” Sean Charney said. “It’s just a general lack of comfort … it’s the fear of the unknown.”

“I am dismayed at the lack of visible progress towards ending this nightmare which continues to plague me and my neighbors. It’s a constant worry … I no longer feel safe in my home,” Mary Yusef said. “It seems that anyone who shows up at a meeting with an attorney … (the board) will acquiesce.”

“Recent headlines show how quickly Airbnb parties can escalate. We should not have a hotel-like home in our subdivision where all it takes is one bad rental. One fight to start and finish badly,” Laurie Stoppelman said.

The board reiterated that every member is against Airbnbs in the city, but HB 1662 has caused the ordinance to become outdated.

“(HB 1662) is one of the problems we were facing when this decision was made. The intent is to continue working on the UDO to make sure it specifically addresses … this type of activity,” Ward 3 Alderman Randy Epperson said. 

Epperson said going forward the best thing residents can do is keep a lookout for issues with the renters/rental and record and report them for police.

Fribis sided with the residents’ frustration with the decision to allow renting to finish, pointing out the cease and desist issued to the homeowners and an “erroneous phone call” to city staff regarding the legality of the rental.

“I’m very frustrated and very hurt that this board has allowed this to continue. The Virtues came up and spoke and they won your heart … and the board allowed them to continue this,” Fribis said. 

Ward 2 Alderman Christine Lieber accused Fribis of turning the subdivision against the board, arguing “(the board) will not jeopardize any decision and expedite it because you (Fribis) live in that subdivision.”

The board voted 8-0 to postpone the bill indefinitely. If the homeowners continue renting past the cutoff date, they may be subject to fines.

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