Will this Johnson County city restrict — even ban — Airbnbs? Neighbors are complaining

The Shawnee City Council is considering whether to tighten restrictions on Airbnbs and other short-term rentals — or outright ban them from residential areas.

City officials say they’ve received a growing number of complaints in single-family neighborhoods about noise, parking, alcohol and trash at Airbnb and Vrbo locations. And now the city is considering whether to regulate them more or get rid of them altogether, as a growing number of cities nationwide, including New York City and Dallas, crack down.

Shawnee could be one of the first cities in Johnson County to do so. Prairie Village officials also have discussed regulating short-term rentals in residential areas. The Overland Park City Council last year passed an ordinance regulating nuisance parties, which came out of a study of short-term rentals following a fatal shooting at one.

Kansas City this spring passed an ordinance requiring such rentals to register with the city, pay an annual fee and adhere to added safety measures. And in April, Kansas City voters approved a 7.5% tax on short-term rentals. Earlier this month, Wichita passed an ordinance requiring Airbnb operators to obtain a license and pay a $225 annual fee.

In Shawnee, city staff estimates at least 60 short-term rentals are listed on Airbnb and Vrbo. The city regulates them by requiring owners to obtain an annual business license.

The city says 16 short-term rentals have such licenses. In the past few years, police have received 16 calls for service at the properties, Police Chief Sam Larson told the council on Monday.

“I think 16 calls for service in two and a half years is not that many,” Larson said. “I don’t think this is out of the ordinary for any other single-family residences.”

But neighbors have been complaining about the rentals more frequently, city officials said, prompting the council to discuss tighter restrictions over the past several months.

On Monday, council members were split on how to move forward, with some pushing for banning the rentals in residential neighborhoods and others wanting to see options for better regulating them.

“I’m not for an all-out ban,” Councilman Kurt Knappen said. “We’re a conservative council and I just don’t want to over-regulate something unless we have a real problem. But I’m very interested in limiting the number of guests. I’m very interested in being able to root out a problem rental and how we can do that quickly and take care of that problem.”

Councilwoman Tammy Thomas argued that single-family areas should not “accommodate this type of business,” saying that she’s seen poorly maintained properties and parking issues.

“People save their lives, they invest every single dollar they’ve had. They’ve raised their children. To have a nice home,” she said. “And we need to provide the people who are a here a nice home. I don’t see that as our duty to provide a nice vacation spot on the weekends. I don’t think that’s our role as a council.”

Councilman Eric Jenkins said following others like Kansas City and Dallas, he’s hoping Shawnee can “get ahead of the curve” and pass regulations before the city sees troubles worsen.

“I think we’re doing our due diligence by addressing the issue now before it is a super huge problem,” he said.

The council directed staff to come back with more options for restricting short-term rentals, but it is unclear when they might vote on it.

Last year, Shawnee adopted an ordinance prohibiting more than three unrelated people from living together in a single residence. The city only allows more people to live together if they are blood relatives or related by marriage, adoption or guardianship.

A property management company sued the city over the ordinance, but a federal judge recently sided with Shawnee. The company is now appealing.