Racial issues raised at Rotterdam public hearing on short-term rental housing

ROTTERDAM – Allegations of racism were aired during a public hearing held on Wednesday to discuss whether the city should impose a moratorium on short-term rentals like Airbnbs.

The city is considering the moratorium while it studies possible rules for short-term rentals. The moratorium would also allow the city to discuss the impact of short-term rentals in the overall city plan, which is currently under development. If passed, anyone violating the moratorium could face a fine and / or jail time.

“Customers who rent our Airbnbs are 80% here to visit other Rotterdam or local family members or attend events such as weddings, graduation ceremonies, birthdays, vacations and more,” said Glenn Schworm, owner of Signature Home Buyers, which operates six rentals in Rotterdam. “The remaining 20% ​​are people who travel here to work in the region. “

He said the city should be as welcoming and liveable as the city sign says.

However, Schworm said some of the guests who visited faced racism.

“Customers who stay with us through Airbnbs are not scary like our neighbor claims in her first article in The Gazette,” he said.

He said the rental only worked for two weeks before Diane Bauland called the town eight times to complain about the property.

“We also found out that she only complained when certain types of guests were there,” he said.

He also mentioned that a black family staying in a rental raised concerns after a white vehicle drove while filming them.

Bauland denied any prejudice.

“I don’t like him saying something about prejudice,” she said. “There is no prejudice here. I came to Rotterdam for a nice place to live where you know your neighbors.

She said she feared people staying at the Airbnb on Sunrise Boulevard – next to her home. She said that one evening she was awoken by a fight around 1 a.m. on the back porch of the property. Airbnb owners only care about the money they can make, not how it affects their life, she said.

Another neighbor across the street, who only gave Ruth’s name, said she feared for Bauland because of the people staying at the Airbnb.

Many other residents have raised concerns about the city’s control over how people use their property if there is nothing illegal.

“These are our homes, this is our livelihood, these are our businesses,” said Josh, whose last name was not made clear during the virtual meeting. “I just think it’s a total government overrun.”

Some residents said it was the voices of a few making noise on something that shouldn’t be a problem. Ruth McFarland said Airbnbs are great places to stay and offer families something other than just staying in hotels. It’s a place where they can share a meal or watch TV together, she said.

She also voiced concerns over the introduction of rules that could affect businesses when many have already been hit hard by COVID.

“We don’t want to cancel culture,” she said.

A number of residents have also pleaded for short-term rentals, saying they bring income to the area and great options for families, especially large families.

Schworm offered to contact Bauland to see if there was a way to resolve the concerns raised about the Airbnb alongside her.

The city will continue to discuss the moratorium at its next meeting in May.

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