Some members of Springfield City Council voted against allowing a short-term rental on the south side at Monday’s regular meeting, signaling a possible hardening toward Airbnb- and Vrbo-type units in the city.
There are 183 licensed short-term rental properties in Springfield, Daniel Neal, senior planner, told council.
Those are the licensed short-term rentals. At the June 13 meeting, Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc. President Tracy Kimberlin told council the actual number of such properties was approaching 375 in May.
At issue last night was a house at 2209 E. Swallow St., located south of the intersection of Republic Road and James River Freeway.
Ed Gibson, the owner of the property for 20 years, raised his children in the house. He told council he had been leasing out the house as a long-term rental but wanted to switch it to a short-term rental to gain more control over the property. He also noted standards for short-term rentals are higher in general, but he said he would continue to use the house as a long-term rental if council voted down his request.
The measure was approved by a 6-2 vote, with members Craig Hosmer and Abe McGull voting no and one council member, Heather Hardinger, absent from the meeting.
There is a requirement in the city’s land development code that Type 2 short-term rental applicants must obtain signatures from 55% of neighboring property owners in support of their application. Gibson obtained 50% of the necessary signatures – two out of four people – falling short of the 55% margin.
Neal explained that two of these owners are in the process of divorcing from one another, and one has moved out, but the other gave permission by signature.
Another neighbor submitted an objection, while a fourth did not respond.
Council may grant a permit by resolution for applicants when the necessary signatures are not met.
Council weighed whether the application met the spirit of the law, but that’s when Hosmer raised his objection.
“It may meet the spirit of the law, but our job is to enforce what the law is,” he said.
Hosmer broadened the issue to discuss larger issues of Springfield being a city with the majority of its residents renting rather than owning their homes.
“As you have more and more Vrbos or vacation rentals in the city of Springfield, you have fewer and fewer homes that can be available for home ownership,” he said. “We have a city that has 60% of our people living in rental properties. We keep doing things that are contrary to what’s good for our city.”
He added that short-term rentals do not pay the city’s lodging tax, as hotels and motels do, and this was a theme of the previous council meeting on June 13.
Kimberlin told council then that if the 375 short-term rentals had remitted lodging taxes, both the city and the CVB would have been $25,000 richer in May alone, and through May this year, both entities have lost $84,000 each. By contrast, two years ago, both entities lost $96,000 in the entire year.
McGull also objected to the Swallow Street application, but on different grounds than Hosmer.
“I’ve always been opposed to this type of rental in neighborhoods that were designed to be neighborhoods,” he said. “We’ve turned them into motels and hotels. A lot of these neighborhoods have covenants that restrict that.”
He added that neighborhoods could sue council for violating covenants.
Both Hosmer and McGull said Gibson sounded like a good applicant, despite their objections.
While the Swallow Street property was approved as a short-term rental, another application, for 1951 S. Roanoke St., was tabled until Aug. 22 at the applicant’s request.
Austin, Texas-based Kendra Scott LLC made its Springfield debut; Lost Boys Barber Co. LLC relocated; and Wilson Logistics Inc. opened its corporate headquarters in Strafford.