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Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson and Councilmember Larry Cronin at a City Council meeting Nov. 18, 2019.

The Fort Pierre City Council heard the first mention on Monday of a potential ordinance to allow vacation homes within the city limits.

“They’re going to be looked at by conditional use, so it would be very dependent on location, how they’re operated, size and what neighborhood they’re in. We’d really like to see them as a commercial operation in a residential zone,” City Public Works Director Rick Hahn said. “In most cases, we do have some residential houses in commercial zones and we think those would be a wonderful opportunity for a vacation home.”

“I love staying in vacation rentals and that’s my preferred place to be when I’m on vacation,” Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson said. “And the specific reason is that it’s located in a residential area. And that’s why it becomes an issue for a city, because it’s a commercial business operating in a residential area.”

Hahn told the Capital Journal that Fort Pierre has previously closed operation of some vacation homes operating illegally.

“We’ve recently had some operating and had to close them down because they weren’t legal. So, we could get our ordinance in place and hopefully open them back up again,” Hahn said.

“The main issue with the vacation rental fitting into a neighborhood is to make sure that the neighbors are good with that,” Hanson said. “Some aren’t. Some say ‘it makes me nervous to know that there are going to be different people over there every weekend and it’s not people that we get to know, they’re not our neighbors.’ So it has to fit into the neighborhood.”

Hahn said talk with area realtors and the rise of illegal vacation homes tipped the city off to potential demand.

“Basically, realtors have talked to us about whether it’s allowed or not,” Hahn said. “They have potential buyers that are looking at homes… Unfortunately, we did receive some complaints about vacation homes operating in neighborhoods, and that’s where we found out they were operating illegally, through the complaint process. So looking at that situation, we decided that this could be good, but we want to make sure it’s run effectively and fits the neighborhood. Everything’s got to fit the neighborhood you’re located in or the area that you’re located in.”

Hanson said the city ran into issues before the ordinance with not having a local manager to reach out to with operators using Vrbos – an Airbnb rival.

“You don’t have anyone taking care of issues that the owners really don’t have any control over if they’re not local,” she said. “For instance, if someone makes a reservation for six people and 16 show up with two campers and three boats, that creates a problem in a neighborhood. And so those are the kinds of things we’re addressing in the ordinance.”

Hanson said the ordinance should be ready for the city council in 2-4 weeks.

“I think that Pierre and Fort Pierre are good fits for vacation rentals, we have beautiful properties on the river that people would like to be able to rent out and so we are just working to make that possible,” Hanson said.

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