Vacation rentals — also known as short-term rentals, Air B&B’s or VRBO’s — have become “the” topic of discussion during the last couple of City Council meetings as we held public hearings for proposed ordinances for vacation rentals. The meeting room has been filled to capacity with interested residents. In this column, I am going to try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
Q. How did the city get into this discussion?
A. We became aware last fall that there were vacation rentals being operated within the city limits through complaints lodged by adjacent residents. Because vacation rentals — a commercial business — were not a permitted use in a residential zone, the rentals were asked to cease operation while we developed ordinances to allow and govern them.
Q. If they were already illegal, why would the city want to allow them to operate?
A. We felt it was a free enterprise issue and a new business opportunity, and that many people prefer a home-type atmosphere to a hotel for family reunions, etc. We believe that they would be a good addition to our tourism business if the rental is well-managed and if the property is located in the right neighborhood.
Q. What was contained in the proposed ordinances?
A. The proposed ordinances mirrored state law which licenses and regulates vacation rentals. We proposed to require a state license and inspection, and depending on the type of zoning and where the rental is located, a conditional use permit (CUP) to be renewed every 1-3 years. The process for the CUP would include support from a majority of the neighbors. We would implement an annual license fee, fines for non-compliance, and for severe or repeated violations, ability to cancel the license to operate.
Q. What are the major concerns of residents?
A. I would call it a “not in my backyard” kind of concern. Many people, including myself, enjoy staying in vacation rentals while traveling, but do not want one in their neighborhood. Most neighbors are concerned about large parties and gatherings, strangers in the neighborhood, and inconsiderate behavior by the renters.
Q. What direction is the City taking now?
A. We will take another hard look at the proposed ordinances, and take into account the input gathered during our public hearings. We may consider allowing vacation rentals in commercial zoning only and prohibit them in residential areas.