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City Beat: Short-term rentals sore spot for council

Permit request prompts members to suggest revisiting the issue

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The issue of short-term rentals was taken up by Springfield City Council at its regular meeting Dec. 11, with two on council voting against an application for a permit while signaling discomfort with the city’s overall policy.

The property owner, Maria Pilar Triplet, applied for the Type 2 short-term rental permit, which allows houses to be rented out on sites like Airbnb with the owner not living on the property.

Applicants are required to conduct a neighborhood meeting for owners of properties located within 500 feet of the proposed rental property, and that applied to four properties surrounding Triplet’s house at 1414 S. Pickwick Ave. None of the neighboring property owners attended the meeting, and Triplet did not obtain signatures in support of her plans for a short-term rental. However, by city rule, failure of neighbors to submit an objection is counted as approval.

Councilmember Craig Hosmer said Springfield’s short-term rental ordinance is modeled after one in Kansas City, which he said repealed its ordinance because it has too many operating in the city.

A Kansas City Star article from May states the largely unchecked proliferation of short-term rentals became a sore spot for residents after a 40% increase in the number of Vrbo and Airbnb-type rentals in summer 2022. According to the article, 93% of short-term rentals were operating without a permit.

A city planning official told council it is unknown how many unpermitted rentals operate in Springfield, but there are 299 registered properties.

Triplet said she cares about the community and wants to be a responsible operator of a short-term rental and provide options for visitors who want more than a hotel room. She added that she plans to implement strict house rules and a code of conduct for her guests.

Although the measure passed with seven votes, Hosmer and Mayor Ken McClure voted against the permit due to the lack of neighbor signatures.

“We’ve sort of perverted the whole process,” Hosmer said. “We’ve got a city that 60% of our population lives in rental property, and then we do everything we can to create more rental property. This is not a long-term solution for the city of Springfield. This is going to eat up our single-family housing neighborhoods.”

Though Councilmember Monica Horton voted in favor of the permit, she said she is in favor of looking at the short-term rental ordinance again in light of data from the city’s recently completed housing study and the objectives of the city’s Forward SGF comprehensive plan.

Hotel in the works
A five-story Home2 Suites by Hilton is planned at the 1.8-acre site of the former Zio’s Italian Kitchen at 1249 E. Kingsley St. in south Springfield, a project official told council members at the meeting.

Council held a public hearing on a final development plan for the site, proposed by East Wichita Development LLC. Council plans to vote on the measure at its next regular meeting Jan. 8.

Springfield Senior Planner Daniel Neal said a planned development was approved for the site in 1982, and a 1997 amendment to the plan required any development within the area to come to council for approval.

Representing the property’s owners was architect Geoffrey Butler.

“This is an interesting project in that all of the site development’s done. We just wipe out the Zio’s and plunk a hotel right down there in the middle of it. Don’t have to hardly do much,” he said.

The project site, which is for a 117-room extended stay hotel, is near the intersection of National Avenue and James River Freeway.

Rezoning hearings
Council also held three public hearings for rezonings at the meeting, with votes set for Jan. 8.

On the northeast side, at property just north of the newly opened Buc-ee’s travel center, applicant Kurt Wouk seeks to rezone 5.5 acres at 5298 E. Farm Road 104 to highway commercial from a former Greene County designation of suburban residential with a conditional overlay. The property was annexed by council on Nov. 20.

A proposed rezoning of less than an acre at 2555 N. Neergard Ave. in northeast Springfield would change to industrial commercial from general manufacturing to sell used cars on the site. The applicant is Barbara Lorenz.

The other proposed rezoning is for a long, narrow strip of property measuring 1.7 acres at 1650 S. Ingram Mill Road. The new designation would be for a commercial service district from general retail. Applicant J&M Tillman LLC seeks to build a commercial development, according to the explanation of the bill.

Michael Sparlin, senior city planner, said the property, located near the intersection of Sunshine Street and U.S. Highway 65, is about 900 feet in width and 90 feet in depth, and its development potential is limited, given its unusual shape. Retail sales would be prohibited at the site.

Other action items

  • At a Dec. 4 meeting of the Committee of the Whole, council considered extending the city’s mayoral term to four years from two beginning in 2025, with a maximum of eight consecutive years in office. That change would require an amendment to the city’s charter and therefore a vote by city residents. Council will decide at a future meeting on whether to put the matter before voters.
  • A special meeting will be held Dec. 19 for council to consider a set of four bills authorizing the city to participate in the Missouri Fire Fighters Critical Illness Trust and Pool.

Darla Morrison, the city’s director of Human Resources, said the trust was created in 2022 to aid the state’s fire professionals who are diagnosed with one of 17 types of cancer for which firefighters are at heightened risk from occupational exposure.

The first bill authorizes the city’s participation, and the other three bills cover union and non-union personnel joining the pool, including both Springfield Fire Department and Springfield-Branson National Airport firefighters.

  • Pending a Jan. 8 vote, Olsson Inc. has been provisionally selected to provide professional services for Phase II improvements of the city’s Cooper Park and Sports Complex at a cost of $888,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds received by the city. Olsson was the consultant for Phase I, which was the installation of eight artificial turf soccer fields.

Director of Parks and Recreation Bob Belote said Phase II covers the installation of artificial turf for 11 sports fields, including six youth and adult softball fields and five youth baseball fields, as well as other facility improvements.

With council approval, Phase II work will conclude in summer 2025, Belote said.

  • Council heard a first reading of a bill to accept $240,000 in federal grant funds through the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.

The money, available through the Carbon Reduction Program, would be used to plan and design pedestrian and mobility improvements on Grand Street between Kansas and National avenues. It would include 10-foot side passes or trails and pedestrian crossings, and would improve connectivity among residential neighborhoods, the Jordan Valley Greenway Trail, Missouri State University and the Grant Avenue Parkway, according to the bill. Council will vote Jan. 8 on whether to accept the funds.

  • A contract with Pictometry International Corp. was approved, along with an intergovernmental agreement with City Utilities of Springfield, for orthophotography, or digitally corrected aerial photography, of 185 square miles of territory for use in the city’s geographic information system. The company has been used by the city since 2009. The city’s cost for the contract is $307,000.
  • Council approved a $140,000 salary in an annual contract for City Clerk Anita Cotter, plus longevity pay of $1,200 based on years of service. Cotter has been clerk since 2015.
  • Council accepted a one-time allocation of $637,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Family Connects program, providing home nurse visits to families with newborns. Council also approved a grant in the amount of $600,000 from the Missouri Foundation for Health for three years of program funding, as well as supplies and equipment from Jordan Valley Community Health Center for use in the program.

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