DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — A city ordinance in Decatur doesn’t allow for short-term rentals like Airbnbs within city limits, but that didn’t stop Mayor Tab Bowling.
According to our news partners at AL.com, the mayor was reportedly renting out a small guesthouse behind his own home, located at the corner of Line Street Northeast and Walnut Street, for around $70 per night.
Since at least August, the property was listed on Airbnb and Vrbo as an “adorable guesthouse in Historic Old Decatur,” adding the “Entire guesthouse” was hosted by “Russell,” which is Bowling’s middle name.
“Obviously this will end up being embarrassing,” said the mayor when he was contacted on Tuesday. “… It’s not something I look forward to dealing with in the media. I’m not looking forward to that. But I’m looking forward to the ordinance being changed so that we can do this.”
Bowling added that he doesn’t have a business license for the rental, saying that he might discontinue renting out the guesthouse.
“I may need to stop until this ordinance is resolved. This…is probably not going to be met with a lot of favor. I’ll just have to man up and deal with it,” the mayor stated.
Despite the ban on short-term rentals within city limits, there are at least four listings in the Old Decatur historic district near Bowling’s residence, with another 33 scattered across the town.
City council members, even those who agree that the ban should be revisited and modified, disagree with Bowling’s actions.
“As elected officials, we should hold ourselves to the right standard,” said District 2 Councilman Kyle Pike. “Those that are in leadership should follow the current ordinances that we have.”
“It’s easy to say you’re embarrassed after you’ve been caught. Our leadership has to be reflective of our city’s values. I don’t see that right now,” said Councilman Billy Jackson. “The things that we do have to be above board. The way that people see us makes a difference.
As of Wednesday morning, the mayor’s guesthouse was no longer listed on Airbnb or Vrbo.
News 19 reached out to the Mayor’s Office on Wednesday, to seek an interview with Mayor Bowling. We were told he was unavailable for an interview but were given the following statement:
“The Decatur Daily reported the story where I clearly provided full disclosure. I regret listing our property before the City Council considers modifications to our current ordinance. Our property was removed from all listings.”Mayor Tab Bowling
Decatur City Council President, Jacob Ladner met with News 19 to discuss the mayor’s actions, as well as the future of rental properties in Decatur.
Ladner said, “it’s up to us as leaders of the community to model the way, which really starts by abiding by the laws that are on the books” of Mayor Bowling’s decision.
However, Ladner said it can be hard to enforce the current ordinance, when it was adopted so long before Airbnb’s and other vacation rental services became so popular.
“There’s no punitive action in the code for having them” Ladner said.
“We can try and find the owners and send letters letting them know they’re not supposed to be operating, but there’s really nothing we can do because it’s not specifically talked about in our current code it’s very hard to regulate and enforce anything.”
Ladner said the City Council is working on updating the current code which would include an update to the ordinance. He said the earliest it could come to a vote would be early 2023.
As a reminder, because of the structure of the City of Decatur, Mayor Bowling is not a voting member of the City Council.
Ladner also told News 19, that a “task force” has been formed to start looking at the type of enforcement and regulations that other cities that have short-term-rentals, to use as a guide. Ladner said Mayor Bowling is not a part of that task force.