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Arkansas officials debating regulations on short-term rentals

The City of North Little Rock suggested a new ordinance that could ban short-term rentals, like Airbnb and VRBO, in some residential areas.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The landscape of Airbnb, VRBO and other short-term rentals in Arkansas could change in the next few weeks. This comes as some city governments and state legislators debate if there should be regulations on these properties.

This week, the City of North Little Rock introduced a new ordinance that would ban short-term rentals in some residential areas. North Little Rock Mayor Terry Hartwick said he's gotten complaints of loud parties and trash in the streets.

"We're saying if you have it just like every other business, you've got to have rules and regulations...It's got to be in a place that's zoned for it correctly," Hartwick said. "When you're doing this, you're affecting the value of other people's property, and that's what I have a problem with."

The mayor has put a moratorium on new short-term rental business licenses for the city until the Arkansas Senate Bill 197 is voted on. Hartwick said he's frustrated that the bill could overrule city ordinances.

"I don't think they're hearing [our issues] at the state legislature," Hartwick said. "All they're hearing is, it's my property, I can do what I want."

And that freedom to use residential property is exactly what one of the bill's sponsors, State Rep. Brit McKenzie (R-7), said the legislature is doing.

"A person's right to privacy doesn't trump another person's right to own property," McKenzie said. "Property is a fundamental right that's guaranteed to us and enshrined in our constitution, it's not a privilege granted by government."

But there is something all sides agree on— rental properties can bring in tourism.

"Folks from other areas around the country are currently using short-term rental platforms to gain the experiences they want and the places that they want to see," McKenzie said. "I don't think Arkansas should be the exception to that."

But the two sides are still looking at different ways to manage those short-term rentals.

"Brings more people in to eat at your restaurants, take advantage of all your shopping," Hartwick said. "That's a good side... bad side is there are no rules and regulations that govern what they could do when they can do it."

Mckenzie said that the bill is due in committee for further debate next week.

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