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Spanish Town neighborhood Friday Feb. 15, 2019, Baton Rouge. Talks of how and where short-term rentals can set up shop and operate in East Baton Rouge Parish are happening in the historic neighborhood.

The July 2 editorial on Airbnbs in Spanish Town made it sound like we are in good hands with Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker when in fact she has ignored best practices of listening first and then crafting a draft ordinance. People often don’t listen when their minds are made up, there are conflicts of interest or they are being influenced.

Wicker’s initial draft excluded board members' input from the two historic civic associations while the Airbnb lobbyist was invited along with an investor whole-house owner from another city. There were two Spanish Town residents at the meetings who stated that they were there to only represent themselves, thus leaving nobody to represent the two historic neighborhoods the draft was supposed to protect.

While cities like New York, Raleigh, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Las Vegas implemented outright bans on whole-house short-term rentals that have no owner living on the premises, Wicker’s ordinance allows it. Once you get one of these whole-house hotels in your neighborhood, the reasons for banning them become obvious. The one up the street from me advertises for 12 people to spend the night. They not only have had 12 people staying over, they have had several events where police were called to calm things.

Should Wicker’s draft — which will allow for investor whole-houses — get adopted, this will essentially be the second time she threw us under a bus in favor of investors. The first time was over the “mud huts” developer Richard Preis wanted to tear down. (Those cottages once thought to be worthless now go for $287/square foot.)

It was a full house that day at the City Council when votes were counted to save the cottages. We knew Wicker would not vote for us. But maybe somebody else would throw us a Hail Mary pass. The votes came in and sure enough, Wicker’s vote favored developers over Spanish Town constituents. I can still see Bones Addison across that room and over to the left. It was his vote that saved the seven houses that still stand today.

Now here we sit in a déjà vu moment. Wicker’s draft does not represent what our civic association is recommending. We want what most of the country wants: Ban whole-house and allow owner-occupied to some degree that is best for everyone.

MARIE CONSTANTIN

Spanish Town homeowner

Baton Rouge