Carmel, state leaders disagree on Airbnb and similar websites

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CARMEL, Ind. -- The same week Carmel city leaders sent a cease and desist letter to its residents using Airbnb and other short-term property rental sites, the state legislature considered a bill that would ban cities from doing just that.

In the letter, Carmel Building Commissioner Jim Blanchard advised residents they would have 10 days to remove their property from listings on Airbnb and similar sites to avoid further action from the Code Enforcement Inspector. Blanchard explains the homes are zoned as Residential Single Family and are not allowed to be turned into businesses, in this case a hotel or bed and breakfast.

"Doing so would be unfair to your neighbors and to our local businesses and would be contrary to the community's zoning laws," Blanchard wrote in the letter.

The letter advises residents they can ask for a zoning variance to allow for a different use, which would include at least four public hearings and the opportunity for neighbors to give their input.

“(Homeowners do) not expect to be in a commercial district and they have an investment in their homes and it’s appropriate to protect that investment," Carmel City Council Member Ron Carter said.

However, others at the state level including State Representative Matt Lehman, Bluffton-R, argue people can do what they want with their own property, within reason.

Lehman is sponsoring House Bill 1133 that would prohibit municipalities from banning companies like Airbnb. The legislation does allow for local homeowner associations to ban its homeowners from listing their property online for a short-term rental. It also allows cities the ability to regulate the short-term rentals with other city codes including noise violations and public safety ordinances.

“If this is my house, I bought it and I want to put it on Airbnb for the race weekend and have someone come and stay here for four days," Lehman said. "I should have every right to do that.”

The bill is currently working its way through the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee.

City leaders in Carmel said the legislation is an example of the state government micromanaging cities.

“Frankly the state legislature should stay out of the affairs in local communities," Carter said.

"This is not good legislation," Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said. "There’s a process already in place and it’s a good process.”

State leaders plan to address House Bill 1133 again next Tuesday during a committee hearing.

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