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LEGAL TO LEASE: City Council just placed a stamp of approval on John Horner’s long-standing backyard cottage rental business and others.
SBJ file photo
LEGAL TO LEASE: City Council just placed a stamp of approval on John Horner’s long-standing backyard cottage rental business and others.

City Beat: Council regulates short-term rentals

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It’s official. Short-term rentals have been legalized in Springfield with City Council’s 7-1 vote Jan. 28.

“We have worked on this for a long time,” Mayor Ken McClure said before the vote on a substitute bill regarding the properties. “I believe this is the fourth time this has come before council. A lot of people have put in a lot of work.”

The passage of the substitute bill gives validation to already operating short-term rentals, which had been doing so illegally the last few years. Ordinance language had bounced between the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council for most of 2018, before the substitute bill was introduced Nov. 19.

With the substitute bill’s passage, the original short-term rental bill was considered moot and a vote did not take place.

“I’m not prepared to say this is the perfect solution, but I think it is a good solution and we’ll learn from it as we proceed,” McClure said.

Airbnb.com, a popular short-term rental site, currently lists 265 properties available in Springfield, and the local industry grossed $1.4 million from 15,800 guests last year, according to data from the San Francisco-based company.

The city code now categorizes short-term rental properties into three types.

A Type 1 rental is an owner-occupied property located in the primary structure or a historic carriage house. A Type 2 property isn’t owner-occupied, and the owner must obtain a certificate of occupancy and an annual business license.

Only Type 1 and 2 properties are allowed in single-family residential and residential townhouse districts, according to city documents.

A Type 3 property is similar to a Type 2 property regarding the need for a certificate of occupancy and an annual business license, but Type 3 properties are allowed in every other zoning district.

The substitute bill modifies Type 1 properties to allow unlimited rentals in an accessory apartment in the primary structure or carriage house when the owner is present. Otherwise, the properties have a 95-day rental cap per year when the owner is not on-site.

Advertising a noncompliant short-term rental using a third party like Airbnb was clarified to be a violation of the ordinance.

The substitute bill also implements a 30-day grace period ending Feb. 27 for Type 2 property applicants when they will not be subject to density limitations of one Type 2 rental per eight structures on each side of a single block. The owners would still have to meet a 55 percent consent provision from adjacent property owners.

Councilman Richard Ollis was absent, and Councilman Craig Hosmer was the lone opposing vote. He voiced his concern about the bill on Jan. 14. regarding the grace period for Type 2 properties.

“We’re saying you violated the law in the city of Springfield for two years – there’s not going to be any consequence to it,” he said at the time.

The vote signaled a victory for hotel operators, said Tracy Kimberlin, president of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, with regulations helping even the playing field.

“There are some people who have a desire to stay in short-term rentals as opposed to a hotel room,” he said the morning before council’s vote. “Rather than trying to fight it, we need to embrace it and regulate it for the safety and comfort of our visitors.”

Rezoning bills
A rezoning request by property owner Jeffery Ballard for 3.6 acres at 2521 S. Holland Ave. to a low-density multifamily district from a single-family residential district failed due to a tie vote.

The vote was 4-4 with council members Phyllis Ferguson, Matthew Simpson, Mike Schilling and Hosmer voting in opposition. According to city code, a majority of council is required to adopt an ordinance, resolution or motion.

“I think it’s a poor change to the zoning, and I don’t think it’s in keeping with the neighborhood’s surrounding property,” Hosmer said.

Ballard had planned a multifamily development with a maximum density of 11 dwelling units per acre in the Seminole/Holland neighborhood, according to city documents.

All four speakers at the Dec. 6 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting voiced concerns about flooding on the undeveloped property, according to city documents. P&Z voted 7-1 to approve the rezoning request for the property.

“This is an area I see that could be best left natural,” said East Cherokee Street resident Seth Entwisle during the Jan. 14 public hearing. “Flooding, water quality, nature preservations are major concerns of mine with this project.”

In other zoning business, council unanimously approved a rezoning request by applicant ICT II LLC for 33 acres at the 2200 block of North Belcrest Avenue. The property was zoned highway commercial and heavy manufacturing, but the applicant requested to remove the highway commercial zoning.

The proposed use is for an indoor storage facility, said Planning and Development Director Mary Lilly Smith during the first reading on Jan. 14.

Council also approved rezonings for a Walmart parking lot at 3315 and 3303 S. Campbell Ave., a Kum & Go LC gas station at 2963 E. Division St. and an indoor storage facility in the 2100 block of South Eastgate Avenue.

Bike share
A communal transportation system is another step closer in Springfield after council held the public hearing for an ordinance regarding encroachments on city property.

Nonprofit organization Springfield Bike Share plans to add communal bike docks for the bike share program in downtown and the surrounding area, organizer Cody Stringer told Springfield Business Journal in October.

The installation of the bike docks requires a change to City Code Chapter 98, which covers streets, sidewalks and public places, and Chapter 36, the land development code.

Springfield Bike Share is also working with Missouri State University to install docks on campus.

“They’re on virtually the same timeline as what we are,” said Eric Claussen, city traffic engineer, adding he’s been in talks with the school for the past few weeks. “It’s going to be a united deployment on both Missouri State’s campus as well as city of Springfield public right-of-way.”

Stringer presented his proposal to the city’s Finance & Administration Committee on Aug. 8, 2018, with the committee recommending approval of changes to both chapters of city code.

Springfield Bike Share will be responsible for the installation and maintenance of all bike docks and bicycles. Each dock would carry a $250 license fee, Claussen said.

Council is scheduled to vote on the measure Feb. 11.

TIF report
A report on the status of existing tax increment financing plans was originally on the agenda, but Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner said it was pulled due to the public hearing not being advertised in a publication for four weeks prior to the meeting date. It covered the Jordan Valley, Commercial Street and Springfield Plaza TIF districts, and Kerner said it would be added to a council agenda in March.

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