Rental situation on agenda

Council opens floor on nightly rental subject

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— City Council may be playing out its ritual weekly review of the Community Development Code tonight in front of an uncommonly rapt audience. Article 4, which is scheduled to be reviewed tonight, contains language pertaining to the hotly contested subject of nightly rentals.

Planning Director Wendie Schulenberg said the meeting will not focus primarily on nightly rentals but rather on the allowable uses in each zone district. Although she said she expects a large audience to show up, she hopes the conversation will not become stuck on the issue of nightly rentals.

Schulenberg plans to schedule an entirely separate meeting to discuss the topic of nightly rentals. If the meeting focuses entirely on the rental issue, it will probably not allow council to get through the entire article in an efficient manner.

Council will have to decide tonight whether to take public comment ad nauseum on the topic or to limit the ability of the audience members to participate.

At recent development code and City Council meetings, members of the public have addressed the city about the topic.

The subject of whether nightly rentals should be restricted in the city has been debated for the past few years with the community split roughly 50-50 on the issue from the results of surveys, Schulenberg said. The planning department is currently conducting a study of the effects of nightly rentals on neighborhoods, reviewing such data as the volume of police calls and noise complaints, and should be able to present that information by May, Schulenberg said.

Nightly rentals, at present, are allowed in all neighborhoods because they were not addressed at all in the previous code. People who rent their homes out do have to pay a sales tax on their earnings, though.

In draft four of the code, the planning department had identified a number of neighborhoods where the rentals would be allowed if certain criteria were met. The language on nightly rentals in draft four, however, was meant more as a "place-holder" than the result of a final decision and will need to be further discussed, Schulenberg said.

Council will also have to decide how to deal with existing nightly rentals and how the city's regulations will coexist with community covenants.

After a slew of meetings over the past few years, the planning department has realized that there may need to be some restrictions on the practice of renting out one's home to guests on a nightly basis, but those restrictions will likely not prohibit all nightly rentals.

Schulenberg talked about finding a "middle ground" on the issue, which may not fully satisfy either party in this debate.

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