Washington City Council Chambers

A request by a local businesswoman for a permit to operate a short-term dwelling in a residential neighborhood failed in front of the Washington City Council Monday.

The council voted 4-2 in favor of the request by Tyann Marcink (Hammond) for a special use permit for a Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) at 1518 Riverview Drive which is located in a R-1B Zoning District. However, approval required five votes in favor.

Councilmen Steve Sullentrup and Mark Hidritch voted against the ordinance allowing a permit. Councilmen Nick Obermark and Mark Skornia were not at Monday’s meeting.

Several residents protested a VRBO, also referred to as an AirBnb, in their subdivision, stating it does not fit in the quiet, residential neighborhood. However, there was support by other neighbors, including Mark Michels, who said he would prefer a VRBO that is well-maintained to a long-term rental.

Michels said he has lived next to rental properties that have not been maintained.

“If we have somebody who will upkeep the property in the neighborhood, I don’t see any adverse effect,” he said.

In contrast, Mark Wood, who lives on First Parkway directly behind the Riverview Drive home, commented that he would prefer owner-occupied homes in the subdivision.

“I would hate to see a short-term rental go in my backyard,” Wood said. “There are a lot of other places that would work fine.”

Short-term lodging, anything less than 30 days, requires a special use permit for any zoning district outside of C-3 Overlay Districts.

The property is owned by Diana Tyler, Washington, who has been living at the Riverview Drive home; and Steve White, San Juan Bautista, Calif. It would be managed by Marcink.

On July 8, the city’s planning and zoning commission voted 5-3 to recommend the council approve the request.

City staff also recommended approval, stating that short-term rentals, “create minimal traffic and are a pretty low frequency use.”

According to City Attorney Mark Piontek, in the future, the ordinance could be introduced again by a member of the council who had voted to approve it.  It would take five affirmative votes to pass the ordinance.

Council members who voted in favor were Gretchen Pettet, Joe Holtmeier, Jeff Patke and Mark Wessels.

Opposition

Neighbor Mike McFatrich said he and his wife have lived in Washington twice. The couple left for employment, but then sought out a home in Washington when they returned to the area.

“I have a right to maintain the integrity of my neighborhood,” he said. “I don’t see the necessity of allowing this in our neighborhood.”

Marc Thurston said he is concerned that any business in a residentially zoned area could lead to more businesses, such as a day care.

In response to statements that a short-term dwelling would be a better options than a long-term rental, Thurston noted that should not be a concern to him nor his neighbors. He said that throughout Washington rental properties should be better maintained.

“Why is it that what once was well cared for is now not so well cared for, and should that be justification for asking us what would be better, long-term or an AirBnb?” he asked. “It shouldn’t come down to short- or long-term.

“We all should be taking care of our homes,” he added.

Councilman Jeff Patke said the city has taken measures to ensure rental properties are maintained.

Gail McFatrich echoed the comments that businesses do not belong in neighborhoods.

“We are a neighborhood and we are not interested in others’ profit,” she said. “You have to think of the people already here — we too spend money in restaurants and we too shop in this town.”

“Once you allow one it will set a precedent and it will allow for more (businesses),” added Nancy Anderson.

Councilman Mark Wessels asked what the recourse would be if there is noise, or other complaints, at a VRBO.

City Administrator Darren Lamb said there are ordinances that limit the decibel limit at a residence, and other ordinances that apply to upkeep and maintenance of homes.

Support

Tyler said over the past two years she had done a lot of work at the home.

“I want my home to be just as beautiful (as neighbors’ homes),” she stated. “I feel it would raise the value of the property.”

Dave Schmitz has operated VRBOs for 14 years. He told the council he has never seen neighboring property go down in value.

“Not only do they pay city tax where they are staying, but they also go to restaurants and stores,” Schmitz said. “That all adds up quite a bit.”

Sally Haddox, who also lived in the subdivision, stated she would prefer to see a VRBO.

“I have seen really bad renters,” she said. “I would much rather have a vacation rental than long-term (renters).”

Marcink submitted a letter to the council that was read by Joette Reidy, a friend and fellow businesswoman and VRBO owner in Washington.

Marcink offered links to articles and studies supporting VRBOs, and that also indicate the short-term rentals raise home values in some instances.

She noted that the home at 1518 Riverview Drive had been vacant for 12 years before the owners purchased it.

“A vacant home is a negative impact on a neighborhood, Marcink wrote. “The home is no longer vacant as Diana (Tyler) has been living at the home for nearly two years, gradually repairing the home while also running her local business Vivify Salon and Spa.”

Marcink manages several VRBOs in Franklin, Warren and St. Charles counties, as well as the Branson area.  

“Having new neighbors each week could be looked at as an adventure. It is an opportunity to have a variety of people from all over the world visit the area, bringing smiles and laughter into a neighborhood, if only for a few days at a time,” according to Marcink.

“Hosting guests to our area is a privilege I hold dear and believe that the home at 1518 Riverview Drive would not be a detriment, but an asset to the neighborhood and the city of Washington.”