PEORIA – The out-of-state owner of a controversial Airbnb in north Peoria wants to set the record straight: he does care about Peoria.
“I was deeply invested in Peoria when I lived there. I served on several different LGBTQIA boards. I was one of the few openly-gay pastors, and so I very much so cared deeply about the city and have some of my closest friends and family that live there,” Josh Lee said.
Lee was responding to a comment made by Kathy Matlock, a resident of the Willow Knolls South subdivision, during the Peoria City Council meeting a week ago. Matlock, whom Lee said he has never met, spoke before the council vote to allow Lee’s house to be used as an Airbnb.
“He has no interest in Peoria. He lives somewhere else,” said Matlock.
Lee is an Elgin native who moved to Peoria to work as a pastor for Imago Dei Church. He bought the house at 1506 N. Teton in August 2020. Last fall, when he moved to New York for another job, he decided to keep the house on Teton for sentimental reasons.
“That’s our first house and I am very emotionally attached to it and wasn’t ready to say goodbye to it,” he said.
He plans to stay in the home several times a year when visiting Peoria.
“Our family is still there,” he said. “My fiancé’s family is in the area and my family is just two hours away in Chicago. And I’ve made so many close friends.”
Lee said that he actually used the home as an Airbnb from the beginning. In an effort to supplement his income, Lee rented the lower level, which has a separate entrance, and lived on the upper level.
“This helped me afford a little bit nicer house,” he said.
Lee said his immediate neighbors and the neighborhood association knew the home was being used as an Airbnb, and no one objected. People only started complaining after word got out to the whole neighborhood as Lee was going…