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Village Council

Village Council ponders regulation of Yellow Springs Airbnbs

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At Village Council’s April 3 meeting, Council members considered the appropriate level of local government regulation  regarding the issue of local short-term rentals. The topic came to Council via Planning Commission, which sought to clarify issues specifically around Airbnb rentals, which are becoming increasingly popular in Yellow Springs. 

In the end, Council gave a first reading to the proposed ordinance but did not take a vote, with one Council member expressing the hope that more villagers will weigh in on the issue. The short-term rental ordinance will come back for a second reading and vote at Council’s May 15 meeting.

In a written statement to Council, zoning administrator Denise Swinger said that the planners had for several months been wrestling with issues around Airbnb, the online rental service through which people rent out spaces in their home or on their property. Currently, the zoning code identifies short-term rentals as spaces rented for weeks or months, but Airbnb spaces are frequently rented for only a day or a few days. The planners were concerned that the current zoning code language doesn’t sufficiently regulate Airbnbs, she said.

In the proposed ordinance, the planners added language that would restrict the number of adults staying in a property owner’s accessory dwelling to two and the number of units in a household to one. It also added parking requirements. However, some current Airbnb hosts at the meeting felt the proposed ordinance was too restrictive.

Airbnb “brings people to town, and like it or not, we’re a tourist destination,” said Dan Rudolf, who with his wife, Libby, rents out space through Airbnb. “We should do everything in our power to encourage short-term rentals.”

Kathy Burkland also rents an addition to her house through Airbnb, and has found the experience to be very positive.

“It’s made me love Yellow Springs more, to see how people who come here think it’s one of the most special places on earth,” she said.

Council members who spoke also leaned away from adding more regulation.

“I feel government regulations should be limited to solving problems,” Judith Hempfling said, noting that it’s not clear what problem the regulations would solve. “We should assume people will be responsible.”

Council Vice President Brian Housh expressed the desire for more villagers to weigh in on the issue. If there are problems with homes with Airbnb rentals, he hasn’t heard them, Housh said this week, so he hopes more villagers address the issue.

In other Council April 3 business:

• In another ordinance brought to Council by Planning Commission, Council considered the Village regulation of plants and weeds on private property. Currently, property owners have until July 1 to begin mowing their lawns, and are required only to have grass shorter than 12 inches.

However, Village Manager Patti Bates  expressed some frustration with the current policy.

“We get a lot of calls from people who say their neighbors aren’t mowing their grass,” Bates said, stating she then tells people she can’t do anything until July 1, nor until the grass is 12 inches high. “Twelve inches seems extreme for grass.”

Council members agreed to revise the ordinance to require that grass may not be higher than 9 inches, a maximum height suggested by Glen Helen Director Nick Boutis. 

The ordinance also added purple loosestrife to the list of plants that owners should remove from their property, joining the current list of common ragweed, giant ragweed, Canada thistle and poison ivy. 

The proposed ordinance adds a second list of invasive plants that property owners are “strongly advised” to remove, including Japanese honeysuckle, garlic mustard, multiflora rose, bush honeysuckle and a variety of other invasives. 

In comments to Council, Boutis suggested that the added list of invasives include many that aren’t important for Yellow Springs, and the list leaves off some plants, like the callary pear tree, that are locally important. He will meet with Manager Bates to revise the list of invasives that property owners are encouraged to remove. Council members will continue discussion on the ordinance and take a vote at their April 17 meeting.

• Council also unanimously passed the first reading of an additional zoning code revision brought by Planning Commission that removes the current spatial requirements for two-family and attached single-family dwellings. The planners, in the process of addressing two recent housing requests, found the current spatial requirement “hinders the ability to use available land for infill,” although Council has identified more infill as a village goal.

• Council heard a presentation by Ken LeBlanc of the Greene County Regional Planning Commission on “Development Factors and Possibilities for the Glass Farm.” The report’s purpose was to “describe factors relative to potential development” of the Glass Farm, including location, zoning issues, utilities, transportation, existing public plans, ground water and soil suitability. 

The report recommends that those factors favor putting housing on the property, although the houses would need to be small due to soil considerations. 

In response, Council members expressed their desire to put housing on the property.

“We’re pretty clear what we want. We know we want housing,” Wintrow said, stating that Council could soon put out a Request for Proposal, or RFP, for the project. However, the Village also needs a housing needs assessment before moving forward, according to Hempfling, along with more discussion on desired density of the project.

And while Council wants to involve the community, it does not want a long, drawn-out discussion on potential uses, Hempfling said.

“We’ve been talking about developing housing on the Glass Farm for years,” she said.

Council agreed to task Bates and Swinger with finding companies that could provide housing needs assessments.

• Council unanimously authorized the Village manager to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Buckeye Trail Association that designates Yellow Springs as a Buckeye Trail Town. The move will help to promote bike trail tourism in the village, according to Mark Heise, who brought the Buckeye Trail Town resolution to Council.

• Council approved a resolution that will include Yellow Springs in this summer’s Greene County Cooperative Paving Program, an annual street upkeep program. 

• Council approved a resolution that authorizes Bates to renew health insurance for Village employees.

• Shernaz Reporter of the Greene County Combined Health District urged Council to consider a Village-wide policy for smoke-free public parks and spaces. Such a practice is becoming a national trend, she said.

Council members agreed to look into how other municipalities are addressing the issue.

• Rick Walkey of the Energy Board presented that group’s annual report.

• Greene County Library Director Karl Colon presented the annual report on the local library. He thanked Council and villagers for their enthusiastic library support.

• In response to area residents affected by the proposed expanding mining operation near Enon, Council agreed to write a letter opposing the project to the Clark County officials.

* Council’s annual retreat will take place Monday, April 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Antioch University Midwest. Overarching goals for the day include developing a timeline for Council goals, discussing how to manage meetings to make them more effective and inclusionary, and improving Council effectiveness with citizens, staff and commissions.

Council’s next regular meeting takes place Monday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

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Village Council ponders regulation of Yellow Springs Airbnbs

by Diane Chiddister