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City Beat: Council keeps status quo on trash service

Vote comes after recent effort to collect input on coordinated collection via zones

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Following a narrow 5-4 vote, Springfield City Council officially ceased efforts to change residential trash collection, also halting a planned mandatory request for customer data from local trash haulers.

The decision, made Jan. 29, comes after a lengthy debate on whether zoned trash collection should be adopted by the city. A recommendation to enact such a system in Springfield first surfaced in 2000 with the city’s Vision 20/20 comprehensive master plan, according to city documents.

Nearly a decade later, the Springfield-Greene County Solid Waste Management Task Force in 2008 recommended adopting the system that would zone off the city into residential areas of service by designated trash haulers. A recent $109,000 city-commissioned report also outlined zoned collection as a benefit.

The city currently has an open-market system, allowing each residence to choose a trash hauler. A potential move toward zoned trash collection picked up steam in recent weeks, however, with the city announcing earlier this month a new public education and input initiative on residential trash collection.

The Jan. 29 vote officially put the effort to bed, though some council members maintain an interest.

Councilmen Mike Schilling, Thomas Prater, Craig Hosmer and Richard Ollis voted against ceasing the input initiative and business-information request. An affirmative vote from Mayor Ken McClure broke an otherwise gridlocked council.

Councilman Craig Fishel said during the meeting that, while zoned residential trash collection offered certain advantages, council has no desire to force unwanted change.

“It has been loud and clear that the citizens of Springfield like their trash haulers, and we’re not up here to change the way you want to do it,” Fishel said. “We were wanting input. We got it.”

Schilling countered before the vote: “I think we haven’t done enough due diligence on this, and it seems like cutting off things early. I think there’s some efficiencies to be gained here.”

Hosmer said it’s simply bad timing.

“If you look at what this resolution does, it says we can’t collect information and we can’t educate the public on what this proposal is,” he said. “The haulers, I think, are the group that is pushing this amendment. To stop information and to stop education, those are bad ideas – every time.”

A recent third-party poll suggested only 19 percent of Springfield residents supported council making changes to the existing open-market system, while 60 percent said they’re satisfied with the current cost of trash hauling.

The bill still allows council to seek full funding for the city’s solid waste management system, namely through “put-or-pay” landfill disposal contracts with trash haulers or via a “flow-control” ordinance. Both options would require certain tonnages of waste delivered to the city landfill to ensure funding.

Airbnb and others
Council also entertained a lengthy public debate on newly proposed city regulations for online-based, short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeShare.

With talking points at times hitting on guns, parties and pornography, some 20 residents signed up for public comment nearing midnight on a proposed set of city regulations to govern short-term rentals.

Council did not vote on the rules that would organize into three categories the rentals arranged via websites and mobile applications.

Short-term rentals of less than 30 days are illegal in Springfield, according to city Planning & Development Director Mary Lilly Smith, who said city zoning also prohibits more than three or four nonrelated tenants per rented residential property, depending on the zoning.

“We also have been looking at this with the desire to preserve neighborhood character, with the premise that these activities – these Airbnbs, these short-term stay rentals – introduce commercial activity into a residential area,” Smith said.

She also noted the city’s desire to provide a level playing field between traditional hospitality and online-based rental options in terms of licensing, taxation and property inspections.

Under the proposed regulations, short-term stays would be divided into three licensing categories, among other requirements.

The first, Type 1, essentially would allow short-term rentals in owner-occupied homes within single-family residential and townhouse districts, with a 95-day cap on the number of days booked annually, Smith said.

She said Type 2 rentals would be allowed in owner-occupied and nonowner occupied homes within SFR or townhouse districts, but with no annual limit on the number of days booked. Unique to the grouping, owners of Type 2 rentals would be required to obtain a $1,700 conditional-use permit, which would require public hearings before the Planning & Zoning Commission and council, who would have final say on a particular property.

Type 1 and 2 rentals also would be bound by a 500-foot separation requirement from other short-term rentals, Smith said.

She said Type 3 rentals would be allowed in all other districts, with no residency requirement, booking limitations or separation requirements.

But no more than two “dwelling units” could be rented per property.

Public comment during the Jan. 29 meeting ran the gamut, with support and opposition sailing on a nearly even keel.

Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau President Tracy Kimberlin said the organization supported short-term rentals, though the proposed regulations are merely a good start that needs to be “massaged.”

“We think short-term rentals should be allowed,” he said. “That genie is out of the bottle.”

Others sharply disagree. Zone 4 resident Judy Richardson said she bought a gun to protect herself from the free-for-all she said occurs at a short-term rental adjacent to her property.

“People don’t come there to sleep,” Richardson told council. “They come there to party. Talk about money, I’m going to eat it. My life savings is in (my) house.”

Resident Allison Cain said her two young children were subjected to pornography viewable from their Southern Hills bedroom via a big-screen TV at a short-term rental directly across the street.

“Unfortunately, I can’t take back what my boys saw,” Cain said.

She said her neighboring short-term tenants are all strangers that put nearby children in precarious situations.

“Who are these people? Nobody really knows for sure,” she said. “Do I trust these people? No.”

Pete Radecki, chairman of the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, told council neighborhood associations generally leave much to guess on whether short-term rentals are accepted.

“We would like to have the opportunity to look at this in more detail,” Radecki said. “We’re all over the map.”

On the other side of the fence, Rountree resident Lance Clouse said only a few rotten apples exist among local short-term rental hosts.

Clouse said he’s repurposed a foreclosed property into a short-term rental via Airbnb. It’s now respected by neighbors.

“Yes, there’s always going to be those, I think, that take advantage of the system, and I think that would be in the short-term rental and long-term rental [markets]. There’s always what would be considered the ‘slumlord,’” he said. “But overall, from everybody that I know who does this, I know they take pride in their homes.”

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