Spring Garden Twp. welcomes AirBnB guests, regulates hosts
After five months of back-and-forth conversations with Spring Garden Township officials, Kathryn Arnold and James Wilson said they were thrilled to find out they can legally operate an AirBnB.
Commissioners recently approved an ordinance amendment to allow bed and breakfast establishments within the township’s two residential zones. Bed and breakfasts weren't included in the former zoning ordinance.
Anyone who doesn’t contact the township for zoning approval to use their house as a bed and breakfast and operates one without the township's knowledge will be fined $500, court fees and reasonable attorney's fees incurred by the township, zoning officer Linda Keller said.
It is the same penalty for anyone who runs a rooming house and doesn't comply with the Spring Garden Township residential rental registration program.
“I was expecting the whole process to be very contentious, but it was not,” said Arnold, who has traveled across the country researching AirBnB regulations.
Keller said she discovered Arnold was a host after exploring the AirBnB website. A letter was sent to Arnold explaining that Spring Garden didn’t have any bed and breakfast regulations.
It was illegal to operate a bed and breakfast in the township prior to Wednesday, Feb. 14.
AirBnB is an online marketplace and hospitality service for people to rent short-term lodging.
“It didn’t comply with the rooming-house criteria,” Keller said of Arnold's and Wilson's house. She added the township chose not to restrict bed and breakfasts but instead to regulate them.
For example, Keller said, all bed and breakfasts must use public water and public sewer facilities; the host must have two off-street parking spaces for the dwelling and one off-street parking space per guest room; and occupancy cannot exceed four guest rooms in one dwelling.
Hosts have to follow "certain regulations to make sure they’re not an intrusive use in the neighborhood,” Keller explained.
Arnold said she’s appreciative that the township didn’t ban bed and breakfasts. In addition to splitting a $500 upfront cost with another AirBnB host to pay for the ordinance amendment, Arnold said she paid an additional $300 for an engineering study and a $500 fee.
Arnold and Wilson, who are now utilizing their upstairs space for guests, said, “more and more people want to stay in their homes, but they just can’t afford the local taxes.”
The house is in close proximity to Penn State York and the Pullo Center, Arnold said. She said they host people who "attend events, tournaments and dance auditions," as well as people going to parents week events at York College.
The township defines a bed and breakfast as an owner-occupied single family residence offering lodging for up to 10 days for compensation to the traveling or vacationing public.
A rooming house was redefined, the ordinance reports, as a building containing a single owner-occupied dwelling unit and guest rooms, where lodging is provided with or without meals for compensation.
"We bought this house several years ago thinking it would be a great place to live in as we get older," Arnold said. "When the idea of AirBnB came along, it became a wonderful option for us."