Racial issues raised at Rotterdam public hearing on short-term house rentals

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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 studying 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, currently under development. If passed, anyone who violates the moratorium risks a fine and / or imprisonment.

“Customers who rent our Airbnbs are 80% here to visit other Rotterdams or local family members or attend events such as weddings, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, vacation 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 just as welcoming and a nice place to live, as the city sign says.

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

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

He said the rental was only in operation 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 expressed concern after a white vehicle passed by 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 woken up to 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 from her, who only gave Ruth’s name, said she feared for Bauland because of people staying at Airbnb.

Many other residents have expressed concern 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 this is excessive government action.

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 another avenue than just staying in hotels. It’s a place where they can share a meal or watch TV together, she says.

She also expressed concerns about 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 advocated 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 Airbnb alongside her.

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

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