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City council holds their first meeting since Mayor Ben Zahn's Nike policy, at City Hall in Kenner, La., Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. Mayor Ben Zahn banned recreational booster clubs from buying Nike gear after the Colin Kaepernick Nike advertisement. A week later, the mayor rescinded the policy.

Kenner is jumping into the short-term rental regulation quicksand.

The City Council, which has watched Jefferson Parish, Gretna and New Orleans wrestle with how to weigh the desires of tourists versus the concerns of residents, held a special meeting Monday night for a "discussion" about how best to regulate the practice.

The meeting drew several dozen people, both in favor and opposed to allowing popular rental services like Airbnb to operate in Kenner.

Councilman Mike Sigur, who is spearheading the creation of new legislation for the city, said he has heard complaints about the rentals from residents who worry about more noise, crime and traffic in their neighborhoods.

Sigur said his legislation would prohibit short-term rentals in areas of Kenner that are zoned for single-family homes.

It makes sense, he said, for the city to enact regulations before there are major problems. "Like anything, if you don’t think it’s a problem, and you don’t do anything and it gets to be a problem, then it’s harder to manage," he said.

Kenner may be trying to get ahead of the problem, but it's behind its bigger neighbors. 

In New Orleans, the City Council made a first stab at regulating short-term rentals in 2016. Those regulations were much too loose, according to many critics of the phenomenon. Currently, the council is considering a much stricter set of regulations that would limit properties offered for short-term rental in residential areas to those with a homestead exemption, meaning the owner lives on the property.

The Jefferson Parish Council has restricted the rentals to certain commercial corridors, such as Fat City and along Veterans Boulevard. A small but dedicated group of Airbnb owners in other parts of the parish has routinely protested that ordinance, to no avail.

Al Morella, a frequent and often sharply critical speaker at Kenner council meetings, earned applause Monday night when he echoed the complaints of many who said that short-term rentals should be treated as businesses, which are not allowed in areas zoned for single-family homes.

"The bottom line is these things are illegal," Morella declared at his usual high volume. 

Another speaker, Mary Kate Hiatt, said tighter regulation is needed because people don't expect to find business being done in their neighborhoods. "I would be against this unless we can zone areas where these kinds of businesses can pop up," she said.

Several speakers, however, said they offer rentals that do not create problems and provide a needed flow of income.

"We are trying to do our part to bring tax dollars" into Kenner, said Doug Malick, who rents out rooms in his home. "I hope whatever legislation (the council passes) would be least restrictive."

Bobby Cure, who said he rents out the front part of his house while he and his wife live in an apartment in the back, said the income is a necessary supplement for him and his wife.

"If you are a responsible Airbnb owner, you shouldn’t have any problems," Cure said. "If something changes now (in what is allowed), I don’t know if we could afford the house."

Cure urged the council to "grandfather in" current short-term rental operators if it decides to restrict the practice overall.


Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.