An Eagan couple's desire to rent their basement to guests through online lodging service Airbnb has riled neighbors and prompted a discussion of whether the city should allow such short-term rentals.
Homeowners Tyson and Stephanie Bramer began renting the walkout basement of their Pinecrest Court house, which overlooks Fish Lake, last fall. But they stopped in November, after learning that the city doesn't allow short-term rentals — considered a commercial use like a hotel or motel — in residential areas.
When the couple's attorney appeared before the Eagan City Council recently to ask for a special permit to continue "home sharing," neighbors countered with a petition in opposition and council members said they needed more time to consider the issue.
"This changes the fundamental character of [a single-family] neighborhood because you've got a steady stream of people coming in that you don't know," Council Member Paul Bakken said. "If it was my neighborhood, I wouldn't like it."
In renting out part of their home, the Bramers joined hundreds of other Twin Cities homeowners, including others in Eagan, who use websites including the popular Airbnb platform to market their homes to travelers. The site has hundreds of Twin Cities listings, among more than 800,000 worldwide.
Some Minnesota cities, including Stillwater and New Prague, allow homeowners to operate bed-and-breakfast lodging in single-family residential areas, according to Eagan city planners.
But Lakeville approved limits on residential boarding in 2014 in response to some residents' complaints about short-term rentals. Burnsville plans to revise its code to make clear that its prohibition on motels in residential areas includes bed-and-breakfasts or short-term rentals, a spokesman said.
The Bramers have asked the Eagan City Council to approve an interim-use permit that would allow them to host short-term rentals in their home for three years or until the city modifies its code to allow such lodging in residential areas.
Stephanie Bramer told planning commission members in April that their home would be "the best possible test case to help guide Eagan as it develops specific regulations on home sharing."
"It is obvious that our activities and those of our guests will be closely monitored by our neighbors and any problems will be immediately reported to the city," she said.
The permit could be reviewed annually and come with a number of requirements, including a provisions that one homeowner be present overnight while a short-term renter is staying at the house and that renters park their cars in the driveway. Bramer said she believed the conditions would adequately address neighbors' concerns.
Fifteen of the 16 other homeowners on the cul-de-sac where the Bramers live, however, have signed a petition opposing the bid to resume short-term rentals. Neighbors' concerns included the effect of a short-term rental property on their property values, extra traffic on a cul-de-sac and wariness of strangers coming and going.
"Their decision last fall to prepare for and operate a bed-and-breakfast in their home without the city's approval can serve as a test case," Robert Barth, a neighbor, told council members. "They demonstrated what a negative impact this operation can have on neighbors and how difficult this may be for a city to control."
Mayor Mike Maguire said the city needed more time to consider the issues that allowing short-term rentals in residential areas raised. The council will discuss short-term rentals at a workshop in August and consider the Bramer's request for an interim-use permit in September.
"There is a sharing economy that is emerging … and it puts regulation in a gray area," Maguire said. "I'm not sure it's going to go away as a trend."
The Bramers told city staff that they received their first booking less than 24 hours after listing their home on Airbnb and had since had more than 20 reservations. "We were surprised to see how many people wanted to stay with us," Tyson Bramer said.
Besides additional income, which Bramer said the couple had invested in improving and equipping their basement for future renters, he said they had enjoyed social benefits from playing host to people of different backgrounds. They also refer renters to local restaurants and the Twin Cities Premium Outlets mall.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail is email@example.com.