Zionsville couple, neighbors fighting over Airbnb rental restrictions

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ZIONSVILLE, Ind. – A Zionsville couple is mounting a fight against the town over the short-term rental service Airbnb. It’s a controversy pitting neighbor against neighbor.

The town informed the couple that they can’t rent out property above their attached garage on West Laurel Avenue, because it’s classified as a bed-and-breakfast, which isn’t allowed in their area.

The couple wants the Board of Zoning Appeals to give them an exception to run their Airbnb. In filings, an attorney for the couple noted other Airbnbs are open in Zionsville too, and the rules for one should apply to all.

Steven and Tamara Totty started renting out the apartment in March of 2015. The two built up quite a reputation, as Airbnb “superhosts” – with rave reviews from guests.

But someone complained to the town of Zionsville last summer and in July of 2015, they got a cease and desist order, saying they can’t operate a bed-and-breakfast.

An attorney for the couple, Michael Andreoli, wrote in filings that other Airbnbs are operating in Zionsville, and there should be a level playing field. He maintained that the Tottys don’t serve meals, so the town’s classification as a bed-and-breakfast is not accurate.

Andreoli wrote that the couple actively promoted guests dining and shopping in downtown Zionsville for the town’s economic benefit. He said they’ve received no direct complaints.

Some residents though, don’t agree. The board of zoning appeals received multiple documents in opposition to the rental. Most said that parking is an issue, along with worries their property value might go down amid an uptick in crime from unknown guests.

“You don’t know what kind of activities may or may not be going on , and when you’ve got people coming and going you have no clue,” said Eric Burkhammer.

Burkhammer penned a letter to the board, against the rental.

“It’s the parking on the street. It’s the use of our driveway as a turnaround. It’s using property that, I’m sorry, that’s not what this is for,” he said.

Other neighbors said they don’t mind.

Greg Sigman lives next door to the Tottys, and he said he hasn’t seen anything to cause him to sound the alarm.

“People have always taken care of the property,” he said, “ I think it’s people worrying about things unnecessarily.”

The issue will be heard before the town board of zoning appeals on July 12.

The couple did not want to comment on record until the appeal is heard.

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