You all know I’ve written to you in the past about this issue, several times now, and each time, over the past few months, the City Council has deferred the issue. I write to you hopefully for the last time on the issue of short term rentals/AirBNB’s in Lafayette. Thanks again for your past interest, support, and action, your patience in receiving emails like this, and I pray for your continued assistance in this last push.
Tonight is the big night
On October 3, 2023, the Lafayette City Council will be considering an ordinance relating to the operation of short-term rentals (STRs) such as AirBNB, for final adoption. Meaning, whatever they do will become the norm for Lafayette, ingrained in law. I understand that the Lafayette Parish unincorporated areas are considering the adoption of zoning similar to what exists in the City. So for those of you who live outside the City limits, but still in Lafayette Parish, this issue is highly likely to come knocking on your door soon enough. As such, your support and interest are needed today, too.
Under any circumstance, there is a lot at stake with regard to what we have all known and expected to be considered residential living in Lafayette. To be clear, both Federal and State Courts have determined that STRs are commercial activity. They are considered lodging for use by transient occupants (akin to a motel) and are legally distinct from regular rental property, in which tenants live as residents. Lafayette has clearly recognized the difference as it imposes motel taxes on STRs, but not on residential rental property. To permit these commercial mini-motels to operate in residential zones would be to end residential zoning altogether in Lafayette.
At present, STRs are operating at random in Lafayette with no regulation whatsoever. For our Council to do nothing would result in the continued proliferation of these unregulated businesses throughout neighborhoods all over Lafayette.
What’s coming up tonight
Attached is a copy of the ordinance being considered tonight. It was originally proposed by councilman Andy Naquin in July of this year. As written, the ordinance would simply prohibit STRs from operating in single family residential neighborhoods. After the last deferral of this issue, apparently three classes of proposed amendments will surface tonight. The first amendment, proposed by councilman Andy Naquin, would leave the ordinance as is, effectively prohibiting STRs in single family. STRs would be permitted to operate in every other zone in the City under simple common sense regulations.
The second proposed amendment by Councilwoman Nanette Cook would also prohibit STRs in single family residential zones in Lafayette, BUT with an exception. A property owner that wants to operate an STR in a single family zone can apply for a license to do so. However, they will be required to obtain the written consent of all surrounding and adjacent neighbors. So if the neighbors immediately next door to the property agree to allow it in writing, an STR can receive a license to operate there. Like Mr. Naquin’s ordinance, STRs would be otherwise permitted to operate freely in every other zone in the City under simple common sense regulations.
The third proposed amendment, which has no author (begging the question of who exactly is proposing it in the first place), would essentially allow STRs to operate anywhere in the city, under a license/permit and certain regulations.
Under either of the three scenarios, all STRs, whether in residential single or any other zone, would be required to obtain licenses, adhere to certain rules (parking, noise, parties, etc.), and otherwise face simple regulations one would expect of any business in this town.
There are only two real solutions to the STR problem
In my humble opinion, the first two ordinance amendments are the only chance we have of preserving the single family residential character of our neighborhoods. While I would prefer the outright prohibition in single family proposed by Mr. Naquin, the second amendment proposed by Mrs. Cook at least affords a say in the matter to the neighbors who will have to live next to an STR. It will also incentivize the best behavior possible from an STR operator, as bad experiences for the neighbors could result in non-renewal the following year. The third option would simply create a pay-for-play process, effectively making every single building in this community eligible to be converted to an STR.
Either of the first two amendments are likely the best scenario the residential neighborhoods in this town can hope for at the moment. This is the first time this City has taken any action to regulate the operation of these businesses. Perhaps more importantly, it is the first time the City has recognized the interests of the neighbors and neighborhoods who are adjacent to and most impacted by the operation of STRs. Again, this is not unprecedented – Lafayette has long required that any significant change to the use of property involves variances or zoning changes in which neighbors receive notice and an opportunity to be heard.
Most importantly, this is the first time that Lafayette’s council has recognized the sanctity and importance that neighborhoods play in the fabric of this community. Our homes and neighborhoods should be protected from commercial uses, and in some instances, abuses. That said, those of us who have been involved in this issue for years, myself included, are supporting the proposed ordinance either with Andy Naquin’s amendment or Nanette Cook’s.
What can you do
If you are interested in being heard on the issue, or want to even join the resistance, the simplest and easiest thing you can do is to email our council members and the Mayor with your thoughts on the issue and hopefully your support of the proposed ordinance. Also, you can call in to the council office and let them know your position. You can also forward this email to anyone you know who is or may be interested in this issue. Lastly, you can come to the Council meeting on Tuesday night and let your voice be heard on the night of the vote.
If you want to come to the meeting, but do not wish to speak, you don’t have to, but you can fill out a card at the meeting stating your position. All approaches are considered by the Council, and all are appreciated by my family and I, as well as the rest of the residents who want to maintain residential living in this community. I myself call, email, and show up to speak at the council meeting. For your convenience, below are all of the relevant contacts:
Mayor Josh Guillory by phone: (337) 291-8300
email: [email protected]
City Council Members: None of these calls or emails are counted for purposes of tonight’s meeting. If you call your city councilman, please also call the main council office at the number above.
Pat Lewis, District 1: (337) 291-5101
Andy Naquin, District 2: (337) 291-5102
Liz Hebert, District 3: (337) 291-5103
Nanette Cook, District 4: (337) 291-5104
Glenn Lazard, District 5: (337) 291-5105
Thanks to you all for taking an interest in protecting our neighborhoods from commercialization. I hope to see you at the Council meeting tonight, October 3, 2023. The City Council Meetings typically begin around 5:30 and are held at City Hall. Please feel free to share this message with anyone you know who has an interest in this issue. And always remember, “Homes Not Hotels, Communities not Commodities.”