Wichita Airbnb where murder took place to face shutdown order

An impromptu memorial of flowers and candles can be found outside 254 N. Battin, where a homicide took place early Sunday morning.

An impromptu memorial of flowers and candles can be found outside 254 N. Battin, where a homicide took place early Sunday morning.

The Wichita Eagle

A Crown Heights house where a man was shot at an early Sunday morning party was an unlicensed bed and breakfast, operated in violation of city code and will be closed, city officials have said.

The incident could lead to stricter rules on online vacation-style rentals across Wichita.

City Manager Robert Layton said on Tuesday that once the current situation is resolved he plans to set up a multi-departmental task force to consider rewriting regulations for the temporary rental of rooms or houses as rooms. hosts.

“We don’t want to discourage shared economy initiatives in the region, but at the same time, we need to keep neighborhoods safe (and) prevent these rentals from becoming party houses,” Layton said.

The shooting at 254 N. Battin was literally a wake-up call for neighbors who had no idea the house was rental accommodation advertised on the Airbnb online site and open to anyone who wanted to pay to stay.

“At 2:45 am. . . I just heard that bang, bang, bang, bang, ”said Kent Mix, who lives in a house where he grew up across the street. “I slipped off the bed and hit the floor. I grabbed my old grandpa’s gun and ran to the front door, cracked the door a little bit, and it was bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang , more knocking, so I closed the door immediately.

“Then I opened the door a few inches again and I could hear running and I could hear people screaming and I heard voices saying ‘We have to get out of here!’ Then I heard cars leaving very quickly.

By the time police arrived, the only person left on the property was a man killed in the shooting, the police homicide sergeant said. Dan Harty. Three more “showed up to the hospital with gunshot wounds” shortly after.

On Monday, Harty, a detective and a policeman with a police dog searched the yard for clues. There is evidence of gang involvement and witnesses were difficult to locate and / or uncooperative, Harty said.

Police spokesman Charley Davidson identified the man who was shot on Tuesday as Elijah Davis, 20, of Wichita.

Since the shooting, someone has placed a makeshift memorial of flowers and large devotional candles at the corner of the courtyard.

City Hall spokeswoman Megan Lovely said the B&B operation was being run in violation of the city’s zoning code, which requires a hotel / motel license for any rental offered to the public for less than seven days. at a time.

Another section of the zoning code identifies guest rooms as a permitted use in single-family residential areas, but only with a conditional use permit.

The owners of the house, Catharine “Cat” Lonc and her brother Edward Soptic, will receive a notice of violation ordering them to cease operating a bed and breakfast on the site. If they don’t comply, the case could be sent to City Court where they could face a fine of $ 500, six months in jail, or both, Lovely said.

Lonc did not return two messages requesting comments left at his main business, The Teahouse at Clifton Square.

County property records show Lonc and Soptic purchased the home, worth $ 261,510, in late September. Tax bills are mailed to Lonc’s home on Peckham Court in an upscale neighborhood in northeast Wichita.

Neighbors noticed substantial renovations underway at the Battin House and said Lonc had hinted that she was planning to move in with her daughter once it was completed. Among the visible improvements were fresh paint on the house and fence, as well as decorative spiral topiaries on the porch.

“We were excited and we’re still that (Lonc) had this house renovated and it looks so beautiful,” Mix said. “It looks like the original house when I was a boy” in the 1960s.

But “unbeknownst to me and probably to a lot of people here on this street, she was turning it into an Airbnb house,” he said.

Neighbor Chuck Petersen said he was also delighted with the improvements to the house and had known Lonc enough to tell him about the pipes freezing in the winter. She gave him the door code and he turned off the water.

He said the house could not have been rented on Airbnb until March because the interior was not finished and the water had taken a toll when he was inside in mid-February.

Like Mix, he said Lonc never told him she planned to use it as a B&B.

“If we had known, we would have been a bit more vigilant about things,” he said.

He said he had since learned that Lonc had another guesthouse a few blocks away. County and state records show the other home, on Parkwood, is owned by Crown Heights Holdings LLC, a company Lonc formed in February 2020.

Mix, retired after 33 years in the hotel business with Residence Inn and Best Western, said he was troubled by passing guests staying across the street.

Online B&B rental can take many forms. Some are rented rooms in owner-occupied homes, others are rented while residents are away, and others are full-time rental properties.

In Wichita, around 50 properties per day are listed on Airbnb, and more are available on other websites.

Airbnb says it performs limited tenant background checks when it has enough information to do so.

However, this doesn’t always happen and the checks only cover the person renting the B&B, not any guests they may invite, according to the company’s website.

Senior reporter Dion Lefler has provided award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion is originally from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other newspapers. He is a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries for The United Methodist Church, and plays second base for the Old Cowtown baseball team.

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