The one-year ban on short-term rentals in Upper Arlington – including the popular online hospitality service Airbnb – now is permanent.

The move was approved by a 5-2 vote by Upper Arlington City Council members April 8, with Carolyn Casper and Jim Lynch dissenting.

The city defines short-term rentals as renting a residence, or any portion thereof, to any tenant for a period of less than 30 days.

Last April, council approved a one-year prohibition on short-term rentals, bed-and-breakfasts and "apartment hotels," the latter of which are defined as apartments that furnish services ordinarily offered by hotels. In doing so, city leaders said they wanted time to explore whether those businesses should be permitted in the future.

The ban was supported by the city's planning division and the Upper Arlington City Attorney's Office.

In a March 18 staff report to council, senior planning officer Chad Gibson and assistant city attorney Jesse Armstrong called the ban on short-term rentals "an important step in protecting the community's residential neighborhoods."

"This use introduces transient guests into the city's otherwise quiet residential neighborhoods for recurring, short durations with minimal owner oversight," the report stated. "It appears that the growing trend is for developers or businesses to purchase single-family residences for the exclusive purpose of operating them as a short-term rental business.

"This can result in increased noise and traffic as well as other impacts on the neighboring residents and their homes such as safety."

Armstrong said violations of the ban would be considered minor misdemeanors under the city's zoning code, punishable by a fine of up to $150.

Councilwoman Michele Hoyle acknowledged she uses short-term rentals such as those offered by Airbnb when traveling but voted against them being an option for people in Upper Arlington.

"We're talking tonight about preserving a neighborhood; we're talking about preserving the character of a neighborhood," Hoyle said. "I just don't think that starting to allow a certain type of business, because it ... provides lodging, is not a direction I'd like to see us go."

Council President Kip Greenhill said he went "back and forth" with his decision "a half-dozen times" but ultimately voted for the ban.

"It was really compelling two weeks ago when a resident came forward and talked about their house or the area where they live and small children play in the street, and that was just kind of the culture of their street," he said. "And then all of a sudden, they had people coming in there who aren't aware of children playing there.

"That worried me."

Casper said she was torn over concerns about the potential rowdy behavior by guests in the community and the needs of visitors -- particularly those whose families or friends were being treated at nearby hospitals -- to find affordable and convenient lodging in the city.

"I just don't think that this is the answer," Casper said. "I think there is a better answer for us."

Lynch said city officials were aware of only 12 residences out of 14,000 in the city that had operated short-term rentals and added that he thought the legislation would make Upper Arlington appear "less welcoming than I know we are."

"We're very fortunate here in Upper Arlington that we're within one mile of two nationally recognized hospitals," he said. "People are coming here for care, and I welcome these individuals to stay in our community."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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