Washington city staff will begin exploring conditions to be placed on short-term lodging within residential neighborhoods.
That was the recommendation Monday night of the planning and zoning commission after voting against two requests by residents looking to Vacation Rentals By Owners (VRBO) in their homes.
Commission member Tony Gokenbach suggested a committee look into regulations for the VRBOs after a contentious meeting Monday in which several neighboring homeowners opposed requests for conditional use permits for short-term lodging in a residentially zoned district.
Ultimately, the commission directed Community and Economic Development Director Sal Maniaci to look into how other municipalities regulate VRBOs.
Maniaci said a recent code revision addressed VRBOs, but the code smay need more clarification.
“We expected this when we did the code revision,” he told The Missourian. “We thought the process for special use permit would be adequate, but I think we may want to look at clean up our definitions of VRBOs and short-term lodging.”
The planning commission Monday recommended the city council deny requests for conditional use permits requested by Sarah Monzyk, 1208 Deer Run Drive, in the Deer Run subdivision; and Joette Reidy, 112 Lake Washington Drive, in the Lake Washington subdivision.
According to Maniaci, Monzyk and Reidy made the requests after receiving a letter from the city informing them of the need for a conditional use permit to rent out rooms or homes for short-term use in residentially zoned districts.
They were contacted when Maniaci saw ads for their room rentals during the solar eclipse on AirBnB, an online marketplace where people lease or rent lodging. He said all of the rentals are subject to the city’s 5 percent tourism tax and owners must purchase a merchants license.
Maniaci explained that the use of online rental marketplaces jumped during the total solar eclipse Aug. 21.
In both cases, multiple neighbors opposed the VRBOs in their subdivisions.
Mayor Sandy Lucy said anyone looking to operate this type of business should educate their neighbors about their plans.
“If you want to put this in your neighborhood get out there talking to your neighbors,” she said. “I see the need for this but we need to find a pathway to get to it.”
City staff recommended the planning and zoning commission approve both requests.
Mark Piontek, city counselor, noted that permits to operate VRBOs must be approved on a case by case basis.
“You have to evaluate each one independently of the other and how it impacts the neighbors and all future impact on the neighborhood,” said Piontek.
Commission member John Borgmann suggested the city staff do more research into other communities, and look into occupancy permits to ensure the property meets all building and fire codes.
According to Maniaci, short-term lodging is permitted in the Downtown zoning district and the C-3 Overlay District, which is along Fifth Street.
The cost of a special use permit is $150 and a merchants license is $25.
According to Maniaci, there has been an increased interest into VRBOs from Washington residents.
“I think the trend is getting more popular and it will keep growing,” he said.
Tyann Marcink, who is a consultant for HomeAway and owner of VRBOs, told the planning commission Monday there is a need for this type of lodging in Washington.
“The lack of lodging is very real,” she said.
Marcink has hosted over 10,000 guests at her properties. She recently opened the Hoover House, a VRBO in Union.
She spoke on the behalf of Reidy at the meeting.
“At Joette’s you can get the hosting experience,” Marcink said. “It brings in more tax dollars and she is doing it responsibly.”
Reidy agreed that there is a need for residential B and Bs in Washington.
“There is a lack of alternative lodging,” she said. “We need to be able to offer hotels, B and Bs Downtown where the action is, and in quiet residential areas.