Village Council addresses Airbnb ‘proximity’
- Published: July 27, 2021
Taking aim at how close some local Airbnbs are to each other, Village Council has imposed a new restriction for those wanting to rent out their spare bedroom or apartment in town.
No Airbnb can be located within 500 feet of another one, according to legislation Council passed at its regular meeting on Monday, July 19.
That distance is about 10 houses away in the most dense parts of the village, Village Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger explained at the meeting. It corresponds to more than a city block and will be measured from nearest property line to nearest property line, as the crow flies.
Previously, Village leaders have noted that too many transient guest lodgings, or TGLs, clustered in one area could affect the vitality and cohesion of a neighborhood.
Planning Commission recommended the zoning code change after struggling in recent meetings to decide when a proposed TGL was too close to another one.
Under the previous version of the code, Planning Commission could consider “proximity” to other TGLs in denying a conditional use application, but has not done so.
Swinger added that her office shares a map of all local TGLs with the Planning Commission when it considers a new TGL permit, though it has not been clear enough for the commission to use as the basis for denying an application.
“We have a map, but it’s still subjective,” Swinger said.
Council President Brian Housh initially pushed back on the measure, saying it was “too broad a distance.”
“Five hundred feet seems extreme for our size of community,” he added.
Specifically, Housh was concerned that those wanting to rent out a space at their property for affordability reasons could be hampered from doing so.
“Council’s policy is still committed to supporting affordability and people being willing to stay in town,” he said. “We don’t want to limit the use of peoples’ accessory dwellings.”
In response to Housh’s concerns, Swinger said that those with accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, could still rent them out to long-term renters.
In addition, those wanting a variance for a TGL can request one from the Board of Zoning Appeals. Village Solicitor Breanne Parcels said that the board can approve a variance as long as the proposed TGL is a “significant distance” from another one.
“Is it right next door to each other, or is it 499 feet?” Parcels said of a proposal.
Housh seemed pleased with that option.
“It’s important to highlight that there is a process if something may not make sense,” he said.
According to Swinger in a later email, there are currently 49 approved TGLs in the village, including four that are non-operator occupied. An up-to-date map of TGLs shows the densest clusters are in the North Winter Street and North Walnut Street neighborhoods and the area around West Limestone and High streets.
The zoning change was only the latest restriction for Airbnbs, which Council has said are having a negative impact on housing affordability and the availability of long-term rentals in town. In May, Council banned all new TGLs where a person did not live at the property they wanted to rent out, known as “non-operator occupied” TGLs. They also imposed a $2,000 annual fee for previously approved non-operator occupied TGLs.
In 2019, Council made TGLs a conditional use requiring Planning Commission approval; before that they were permitted in all residential districts. However, applications for new TGLs started to rise quickly earlier this year, with four applications in May 2021 alone.
In the end, the vote for the zoning change was unanimous. Joining Housh were Marianne MacQueen, Kevin Stokes and Laura Curliss, who attended in person, and Lisa Kreeger, who attended via Zoom under Council’s new remote meeting provisions.
Ahead of the vote, Housh stated an additional concern about the measure, which came as a Planning Commission recommendation. He said that he wants to set up a meeting with the commission as they seem to be “taking some liberties” with regards to proposing legislation.
“I feel there is a disconnect between setting policy versus looking at factors and making decisions,” Housh said of the commission’s role.
Curliss said the commission “needs something to hang their hat on” when it comes to weighing conditional use applications, and that the body, to which Curliss serves as Council’s liaison, is not “going astray.”
“I actually think Planning Commission is trying to find a way to keep ADUs from becoming short-term rentals so that they are available for longer-term folks to live in,” she said. “This is a measure they need.”
In other changes related to TGLs, operators must now designate a smoking area on their property that is at least 15 feet from all property lines. And all non-operator occupied TGLs must have commercial insurance, since they are “operating as commercial enterprises,” according to Swinger.
Council also unanimously passed a few other zoning code changes. Two extend the length of time for which a conditional use approval or variance would be in effect, from 12 months to 24 months. Another changes the language related to a variance from “expiring” to “lapsing,” as they are permanent changes, Swinger explained.
In other Council business:
• Council unanimously agreed to annex a 34-acre parcel on the southern end of town into the village. Oberer Homes bought the property last year, with plans to build 138 homes on that parcel and an additional 17-acre parcel already in Village limits. A development agreement with the Village is in the works. It’s the largest new development in Yellow Springs in decades.
• The Village agreed to put the Black Lives Matter banner at the southern end of town after calls from citizens and the banner’s sponsor, Next Steps Initiative, to restore the banner.
• Council members clashed over whether to increase enforcement of rules limiting street vendors and performers or impose stricter measures. No legislation has been proposed.
A more in-depth report on Council’s July 19 meeting, including other items from its agenda, will be in an upcoming issue of the News.