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Several speak up in support of “airbnb” in Mountain Grove

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When the City of Mountain Grove’s City Council discussed the topic of “airbnbs” during their January meeting, discussion led to the drafting of an ordinance that set several regulations for those wishing to book short term rentals in the City limits. The potential ordinance defined certain zoned areas in which an “airbnb” can operate. It also set a limit of just eight “airbnbs” being allowed to operate in Mountain Grove.

With a second reading slated of the ordinance in February’s meeting, several current and prospective “airbnb” owners packed City Hall during the Feb. 8 meeting.

One “airbnb” owner, Stephanie Thompson, told the Council that most of the people renting her “airbnb” are those attending funerals. They choose to book Mountain Grove online and choose to book one night up to 120 days. She noted there is a vetting process for guests, and if a local “airbnb” owner is considered an “unsavory host,” they may have their account suspended immediately.

Thompson said she’s been booking an “airbnb” in Mountain Grove since 2017 and she was put under the umbrella of long-term rentals as the City Council wasn’t sure what to do with an “airbnb” five years ago.

Thompson said her location has never had a police call. She pointed to the vetting process  as being a help with things.

“I keep up with the neighbors,” she told the Council. “If anything unsavory is going on, I want somebody to text me and the neighbors would text me and tell me.”

Thompson said she also has an “airbnb” in Cabool.

For Thompson, running an “airbnb” is not a cheap profession. “It takes a lot of money to hold a home and generate a return on that,” Thompson added. She said there is a supply and demand issue for rooms to stay in for Mountain Grove since the Stone Cottage Inn burned down. The local “airbnbs” are helping to fill a void left from the fire on the square last summer.

David Mauer also addressed the Council, saying he manages nightly rentals. “I thought there could be a need for nightly rentals,” he said. “When my family visited, they preferred a house (to stay in.)” He bought different houses and spent a lot of money furnishing them with furniture, washer/dryer, internet and everything needed in a home. He said the yard is professionally maintained and he has given his contact information to his neighbor since the January meeting for them to reach out to him with any issues. Since the house is zoned RI, the proposed ordinance would not allow his home to be an “airbnb” any longer. He has also since registered with a City license. He took issue with a comment that nightly rentals bring values down in town.

“I do not believe that is an accurate statement,” he said.

Bryce Parker lived near an “airbnb” and told the Council that he first did not know it was one. He also noted the improvements of the property.

“I think it really improved the value of my house and I think the neighborhood,” he said. “It is really well maintained.” He said a longer rental behind him gets police calls. “I’d rather have short term rentals all around me,” he said. In the January meeting, resident Gary Ramsey said he’s had transient traffic and trash blown over at the location near him.

Shad Friend said he is ready to invest in an “airbnb,” but is waiting to see the Council’s plan with them. He also said his family prefers to stay at “airbnbs.” After hearing the guests, the drafted ordinance failed after no second reading. Councilpersons Sherri Unger, Jeff Holman and Mark Boyd said they want no limit on the number of “airbnbs” Mountain Grove can have when a new ordinance is drafted. The item was tabled until the next meeting. (Editor’s Note: More citizens spoke at the meeting than those noted in the story.)

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