Short-term rentals, long-term concerns: Spanish Town residents pitch for tighter regulations

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Residents of Baton Rouge’s Spanish Town Historic District would like a greater say in who buys and rents out properties, and they want support from the Metro Council.

Neighborhood leaders claim that sites like Airbnb have led more out-of-town developers to flip houses and offer rooms for short stretches of time. But they argue that many of these new investors are rarely on site to manage their tenants.

“We had one [house] this past weekend with noise, confusion and being drunk,” said Mary Jane Marcantel, spokeswoman for the Historic Spanish Town Civic Association. “When the neighbor came out to see what the commotion was about, the people who were there got aggressive. We had to call the police.”

Residents cite similar disturbances of late, in a community where the streets are thin and the parking scarce.

“We’re not willing to give up our parking down here for people who come here on the weekend and yahoo up and down the streets,” Spanish Town resident Debbie Daniel said.

Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker has drafted an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals in Spanish Town. The measure would require on-site inspections and establish a $500 permitting fee for such rentals. It would also limit the number of short-term occupants to twice the number of permitted bedrooms, with no more than 12 occupants per house. These kinds of renters would not be able to rent from more than one property in the neighborhood.

Daniel and Marcantel say Wicker’s proposal, in its current stance, would be too soft on outside buyers. The ordinance would also cap all of Spanish Town’s short-term rentals at 3 percent of neighborhood properties. They worry off-site homebuyers will quickly eat up that limit, locking out the more attentive renters who live there.

“They’re taking our property rights, and that’s not right,” Daniel said.

Wicker maintains that her proposal still sits in its early stages. She plans to hold public meetings to seek further input from those who call Spanish Town home.

“We want to maintain the integrity of the neighborhoods, and we want to have dialogue about what that looks like,” Wicker told “Surely, we don’t want to have blocks taken over by short-term rentals. We’re going to come to a happy medium that benefits all parties involved.”

The ordinance could appear on the Metro Council’s agenda as early as this fall.

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