It was a full room during Tuesday’s Fort Pierre City Council meeting at which the members unveiled a draft ordinance to regulate vacation homes in the city, but whether the city’s residents get behind the idea remains to be seen.
Fort Pierre Public Works Director Rick Hahn said the city sees an opportunity especially in the cases of homes that were grandfathered into commercial zoning areas. But opponents of the ordinance said they don’t want the ordinance, or vacation homes, around at all.
Bruce Lounsbury told the council of his family’s conflict with an illegally operating vacation rental which led him to call the Stanley County Sheriff’s Office two weekends ago.
“It’s non-stop,” Lounsbury said. “We have spring break next door all summer. It’s no fun.”
According to Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson, the city is pursuing legal action against the owner of the vacation home that Lounsbury referred to Tuesday but cannot provide any further detail. The Stanley County Sheriff’s Office provided the Capital Journal with two redacted “disorderly conduct” reports that occurred at least in part at the home in question and that resulted in no arrests — one from the night of June 25 and the other from Tuesday night, just after Lounsbury and his family returned home from the city council meeting.
The draft ordinance runs 21 pages in length and covers everything from required liability insurance, parking, egress windows and “cleanliness and storage” of kitchen utensils to fire protections and provided bedding. Despite its length, questions about the ordinance stretched Tuesday’s public hearing to over an hour as residents asked whether the ordinance would take precedent over restrictive covenants and HOAs and how neighborhoods would be notified of a new vacation home.
Hahn said Tuesday that, per the conditional use permit required for a vacation home, 75 percent of neighboring lots within 500 feet of a proposed vacation home would have to give approval. Both of those numbers are still subject to change.
“That is just a concept that we’re looking into, it’s one one of our administrative concepts to make sure that the adjacent property owners’ voices are heard,” Hahn said. “There was a recent law passed about conditional uses that kind of took away their voice a little bit by the state legislature, so we wanted to make sure the adjacent property owners got some input into it. It’s under legal review as well right now, so our attorney’s looking into it to make sure that we can do that.”
Hahn and Hanson told the Capital Journal that Tuesday’s reaction was about what they expected, with around 20-30 people turning up for the public hearing.
“The comments that we received there were about what we had been receiving throughout, you know, people enjoy vacation homes, however, they don’t necessarily want to be next to one,” Hahn said.
“It surprised me a bit because people seemed to have the idea, and that was probably my fault in communicating that, it seemed like if they were opposed to the concept of vacation rentals in Fort Pierre, they were against the ordinance,” Hanson said. “And we weren’t making the point that the ordinances were going in place so that we can control vacation homes in Fort Pierre.”
Hanson said she believes it “absolutely” important to have the ordinance in place to at least have authority over illegally operating vacation homes in Fort Pierre.
“I am guessing that when we have the next meeting, we’ll see some of the same people because there is a lot of emotion around this issue right now,” Hanson said.