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From the Print

Council approves Airbnbs as a permitted use

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At Village Council’s Nov. 20 meeting, Council members gave final approval to taking a more hands-off stance toward Airbnb-type rentals than previously considered, although they said the issue may be revisited in the near future.

At the meeting Council unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance that makes transient guest lodging, such as space rented on the online platform Airbnb, a permitted use in all zoning districts except conservation and industrial, provided certain requirements are fulfilled. Those requirements are that no more than one space in a home or an accessory dwelling be used for the lodging, and that the home­owner rent to no more than two people at a time. The property owner is also required to fill out an application and to pay a small fee.

Council at an earlier meeting approved the second readings of several additional ordinances related to the Airbnb question, with amendments that changed the rentals from conditional use to permitted use.

The recent changes also replace the former zoning category of short-term rentals with the new transient guest zoning.

In earlier meetings, Council member Judith Hempfling had urged Council to make Airbnbs a conditional use, which requires a more complex approval process. In contrast, permitted use means that the use is allowed automatically.

Hempfling’s concern was that the popular trend of renting out Airbnb space in town could undermine affordability, as fewer longterm affordable rentals would be available.

But the issue is complex, according to Village Solicitor Chris Conard at an earlier meeting. On the one hand, renting out space in the home is one way that local homeowners can bring in extra money, thus offsetting the rising cost of living in Yellow Springs. But on the other hand, there has been anecdotal evidence from tourist-destination cities that Airbnb rentals have undermined the stock of affordable housing.

“It’s an evolving area of law,” he said.

Ultimately, Hempfling stated that more information is needed before further restricting the practice of local homeowners hosting Airbnb rentals. But because Council needed to move ahead with the ordinance to prepare for the Jan. 1, 2018, launch of a new Village lodging tax, Council agreed to make transient guest lodging a permitted use for the time being, with the understanding that Council may revisit the issue in the near future.

In other Nov. 20 Council business:

• Council unanimously approved a resolution that awards a bid for construction of new crew quarters on the Sutton Farm for Village employees to Oberer Thompson Company. The company was the lowest bidder for the project, with a bid of $258,750.

The project is a long time coming, and Council discussion of the need to upgrade the Sutton Farm crew quarters has taken place over many years. In a safety inspection of the current quarters, several safety violations were found by the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, which necessitated taking action.

The work will involve a new well system, new electric, a new water heater, an updated men’s locker room and a new women’s locker room, according to Village Superintendent of Electric and Water Distribution Johnnie Burns.

“It’s been a long process,” he said.

The cost of the project will mainly be covered by the sale in 2017 of a portion of the Sutton Farm to Glen Helen, according to Village Manager Patti Bates.

• Justice System Task Force member Al Schlueter expressed his concern that in a recent meeting JSTF member David Turner was identified by fellow JSTF member John Hempfling as holding up the public release of data collected by the group because the release could make the police department look bad. Hempfling had then released the information, which included statistics on racial disparities in local arrests, on Facebook.

However, according to Schlueter, the decision to withhold the information came from the whole committee.

“That wasn’t a David Turner action, it was a committee action,” he said, stating the majority of the group wanted to make sure the information was accurate before it was released.

The recent actions have undermined the group’s functionality, he said.

The data in question will be discussed at Council’s Dec. 4 meeting.

• Council discussed the need to streamline the petition process for running for local office, specifically Council and mayor, at the request of Council member Brian Housh.

Because Yellow Springs uses its own nominating petitions that are different from Greene County Board of Election petitions, the process of running for office can be needlessly complex, according to Housh. In the 2015 race for Council, several challengers were disqualified because of petition mistakes.

Council members agreed to vote on legislation for a streamlined petition before the end of the year.

• According to Yellow Springs Police Chief Brian Carlson, enforcement of federal immigration laws “has been a non-issue” locally.

“We will not question, detain or arrest someone solely on immigration status,” Carlson said.

His statements came in response to Ohio House Bill 179, proposed earlier in the year, which seeks to punish local officials who do not cooperate with the federal immigration laws. However, according to Carlson, Yellow Springs police will not target individuals based on immigration status. Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer is taking the same approach, Carlson said.

No action has been taken on the bill in the state legislature since May, according to Housh.

• Prior to the meeting, Council met in executive session regarding the discussion of potential legislation and real estate matters.

Council’s next meeting is Monday, Dec. 4.

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Council approves Airbnbs as a permitted use

by Diane Chiddister