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City Beat: Council wants short-term rental alternative plan

Substitute bill removes several barriers to operating in emerging market

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Springfield City Council on Nov. 19 tabled one short-term rental ordinance and sent another to the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Councilman Richard Ollis made a motion to table until Jan. 14 the council bill that would have amended the city code to permit short term-rental business in Springfield. A substitute bill was added in its place.

“Obviously, the short-term rental issue has been a challenging issue,” Ollis said. “It’s an emerging industry, and it impacts a lot of stakeholders.”

Council resumed the conversation about short-term rentals on Nov. 5 after last discussing the topic in May.

Short-term rental businesses, like those promoted on Airbnb.com, are currently illegal in Springfield. City officials are working to manage the existing properties in town while laying a foundation for future rentals. Springfield has had a 43 percent increase in short-term rental listings in 2018, going from 78 to 139.

The original bill introduced a three-tier system for categorizing short-term rental properties, with each having a set of operational guidelines.

The substitute bill passed 8-1 in its first reading, with Councilman Craig Hosmer casting the lone dissenting vote. With the passage, per city charter, the bill was remanded to P&Z for review, which is scheduled Dec. 6.

The substitute bill changes the separation requirement for Type 2 short-term rentals from distance to density in single-family and town-house districts. The original bill called for 500 feet between short-term rentals, while the substitute bill allows for one short-term rental per every eight residential structures in a single city block. Type 2 rentals are those that aren’t primary residences of the owners.

Type 2 short-term rental owners who file within the first 30 days of the passage of the ordinance would not be subject to the density limitation under the substitute bill.

Hosmer, before voting against the bill, said the grace period is “poor public policy.”

The substitute bill also narrows the consent provision to require short-term rental owners get approval only from immediately adjacent neighbors, and it modifies Type 1 properties to allow for over 95 days of rental use of a historic carriage house or legal accessory apartment while the owner is on the premise. The original bill capped Type 1 rental stays – those that are primarily owner-occupied – at 95 days.

An applicant for short-term rental properties can move forward via council vote if the owner is unable to obtain neighbor approval, according to city documents.

In crafting the substitute bill, Ollis said city officials reviewed short-term rental laws in San Antonio and Kansas City.

“I don’t think there is an ordinance that is perfect in this particular situation, but I think it strikes the right balance with an emerging industry,” he said of the substitute bill.

Also, advertising or promotion of a noncompliant short-term rental using a third-party service, like Airbnb or Vacation Rental By Owner, would be a violation of the ordinance, Ollis said.

The amount the city would fine offenders of the new code has not yet been established.

If the substitute bill is approved Jan. 14, when council is scheduled to hear it, the original bill would no longer be considered.

Rezonings
Council unanimously approved two rezoning requests, one at 1904 W. College St. and another at 3040 E. Cherry St.

The rezoning of 0.21 acres to a commercial services district from highway commercial allows for the development of a two-bay fire station on the property near the intersection of West College Street and South Lafontaine Avenue.

The Springfield Fire Departments also plans to build on an adjacent lot, at 1900 W. College St., which already is zoned for commercial services. The city owns both properties, according to Sept. 12 neighborhood meeting notes filed with the city.

A 15-foot wide buffer yard is required between the single-family residential district to the south.

Springfield Fire Chief David Pennington said at the neighborhood meeting architects have not been chosen and the selection process won’t begin until January 2019. The property was purchased by the department using level property tax funds, according to an Aug. 14 city news release.

The rezoning of 5 acres at 3040 E. Cherry St. for applicant Excel Investments LP changes the parcel to a general retail district from a low-density multifamily district.

Sitting adjacent to railroad tracks that run parallel to U.S. Highway 65, the property is on the south side of Cherry Street at Union and Cavalier avenues. At the Oct. 11 P&Z meeting, owner representative Andrew Schaub said the planned use is a members-only dog park with a day care and kennels, as well as administrative offices, according to the meeting minutes.

Legislative priorities
The city passed its 2019 legislative priorities, with the top items being to retain local control, avoid unfunded mandates causing new costs to Springfield taxpayers, and promote public safety, economic vitality and fiscal sustainability.

“It is an opportunity for the city to communicate clearly those priorities to the local legislators, as well as committees, when we’re dealing with legislative process in Jefferson City,” City Manager Jason Gage said.

To retain local control, city officials say they’ll oppose legislation that reduces city authority, including user and license fees.

The city will promote public safety through the creation of a national health emergency fund, scrap metal reporting, additional seat belt requirements and immunization funding.

Economic vitality promotions is targeting legislation that supports education, workforce development, natural environment protections, broadband access and transportation.

For fiscal sustainability, the city is looking to ethics and Medicaid reforms, and a statewide tobacco tax.

The high priorities, which are specific to the current year, were an internet sales tax to help local companies compete in the digital marketplace, an increase to the hotel/motel tax or the adoption an additional convention and tourism tax, implementation of a statewide prescription drug monitoring program and revisions to the dangerous buildings statute.

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