BEHIND THE HEADLINES

Is there room for nightly rentals?

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Q. Why is the issue of nightly rentals such a hot one right now?

A. Last June, after long discussions regarding nightly rentals and bed and breakfasts, City Council asked the planning staff to monitor the situation with short-term rentals to determine, on an objective basis, if there were in fact problems being created with short-term renters or if the concerns raised by residents were concerns of what "might happen." We asked planning staff to get a listing of all the short-term rentals they could, monitor any problems which arose and to report back to us in one year so that we could discuss the situation and make a decision from a position of enlightenment rather than one of conjecture. The year is not up and the report has not been compiled yet.

In the meantime, the Community Development Code rewrite is being considered and staff has left nightly rentals as a use by right in all zone areas except industrial, which is how they have been handled up to this point, as a sort of "place holder" until the report is in and the council has had an opportunity to consider it. I believe it is the listing of nightly rentals in this manner which has made this such a "hot" issue right now. Council has publicly indicated that before the code is adopted there will be release of the report (earlier than originally requested) and an opportunity for public comment prior to council making any decision on the matter.

Q. Are there some areas in the city that ought to be allow nightly rentals and some where they should be outlawed? Is it all or nothing?

A. There have been several suggestions regarding nightly rentals running the gamut from outlawing them altogether to allowing them anywhere. There was a suggestion of an "overlay zone" which would be an area of the city in which they would be allowed, and outside of which they would not be allowed.

This question will be the basis of the decision which City Council eventually makes.

Q. Some neighborhoods have covenants outlawing nightly rentals. Is it the city's role to enforce those covenants? Why doesn't the city simply outlaw nightly rentals in areas that have covenants precluding them?

A. There has been a public statement made by city officials that neighborhood covenants which are more restrictive than the restrictions in the Community Development Code would have precedence over the zoning regulations.

Covenants are contracts between individual citizens (property owners) within a particular subdivision, and to which the city is not a party. Therefore it is my view that the city has no business intervening with or trying to enforce these covenants. Covenants can be changed by consent of the homeowners of the subdivision so it would be imprudent, to my way of thinking, to deny a particular use in a particular location because the covenants today say that the homeowners don't want that use, and then next week or next year they (the homeowners) turn around and say it is OK. Enforcement of covenants is a matter which should be left up to the parties who agreed to them, and for the city to get involved smacks of "big brotherism."

Q. Should people be allowed to use their property however they wish?

A. The question of personal property rights is also at the heart of this matter. There are the rights of the owners of a particular piece of property to do with that property what they want up to a point, and there are the rights of those who are negatively affected by someone else's actions.

In general, my feeling is that people should have the right to do what they want so long as they do not adversely affect their neighbors and this works both ways.

That is why I am anticipating the report from planning staff to try to ascertain just what the negative effects of these types of units have been on the neighborhoods and the neighbors.

The fact that there are various zone districts is in fact a statement that you can't do anything you want on your property just because it is your property, but if in fact there are no correctable negative effects because of these uses it would be an infringement of the rights of the property owners to deny them these uses just because of a perceived possibility of a problem. The answer may lie in criteria with which compliance would be required in order to have the use, but all of that will come out in the discussion following the report.

Q. As a member of City Council and a former member of Planning Commission you have followed this issue from its infancy. Why has the city not been able to come to any conclusions on the issue of nightly rentals?

A. I believe the reason closure has not been reached on this issue is because those people involved on both sides of this issue have a personal stake in their "personal property rights" which are deeply held and cherished.

Absent objective information the arguments on both sides have been based on opinion and personal feeling and the fear of what "might be." Hopefully when there is an objective basis on which to make the decision, and to allay the fears, a reasonable accommodation can be made for all parties concerned.

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