Mount Shasta City Council’s previous vote did not change when the issue of lifting the ban on short term rentals in the R1 zoned housing district was revisited during Monday evening’s regular meeting.
A public hearing was held to consider allowing people who live in the R1, single family housing district to rent out space in their homes through web services such as Airbnb or VRBO with an administrative permit from the city.
After more than an hour of discussion, and with twice as many supporters as opponents voicing their opinions in the public hearing, council ended up where they began, denying the proposed ordinance on a 3-2 vote. Council members Jeffrey Collings, Michael Burns and Tim Stearns voted to deny the ordinance; Kathy Morter and Geoff Harkness voted in favor of it.
Morter and Harkness are the same council members that voted against denying the ordinance the first time it came before council on Oct. 26, and they were clearly in support of bringing the matter back after City Planner Kristen Maze alerted council to the fact that the ordinance presented on Oct. 26 was not the ordinance agreed upon by the planning commission.
Their reasons for supporting the ordinance included compassion for residents who need additional income offered by renting rooms to vacationers. Harkness pointed to a “fear of change,” in the transforming industry with increasing popularity of alternative lodging options for travelers.
Mayor Pro Tem Burns voted to deny the ordinance in October, then joined Morter and Harkness in voting to bring the matter back to council so the public would have the opportunity to speak on the correct ordinance.
Maze presented the ordinance, pointing out that a lot of the concerns originally expressed in the October public hearing were addressed in the correct ordinance. She outlined the differences in the ordinance being presented at Monday’s meeting.
“New information found in the Sept. 16, 2014 planning commission minutes includes: section (c) (3), to include insurance coverage for short term rentals; section (e) (5), to delete outdoor signage requirements; and number three, all references to ‘management’ shall be removed and there shall be a host, caretaker or renter living on site as their permanent residence,” she said.
Eight supporters and four opponents spoke at the public hearing.
Comments in favor of lifting the ban included the need for supplementary income and the ability for some long-term residents to maintain their “empty nests” after their children moved away.
Those opposed referred to the peace of mind and sense of safety offered by knowing their neighbors and living in a tight-knit community.
Some people who spoke at the hearing in October returned to comment on the changes in the ordinance, primarily with the requirement for a host or caretaker to be present.
“I think the real ordinance eliminates a lot of the unfounded hysteria of the ordinance presented in October,” said Tom Stokely.
The October hearing brought out more opponents than supporters, many of whom were worried about increased traffic and rowdy parties in their neighborhoods.
Several of the supporters responded to these concerns by saying that noisy neighbors can move in at any time.
“I don’t think it’s that different from long term rentals,” said Jill Phillips.
Opponent Peggy Risch pointed out that short term rentals are already allowed in other zones within the city, as well as the unincorporated county properties surrounding city limits. “I just want to remind everyone that we’re not trying to eliminate short term rentals, we’re just trying to keep them out of R1 zones,” she said.
After hearing public comments, council member Burns said it was not enough to change his position on the matter.
Stearns said allowing short term rentals would reduce the availability of long term rentals. “We already have a shortage of rentals available in this city,” he said. He added that the high demand for long term rentals is driving up prices and making it difficult for people to find affordable housing in Mount Shasta.
“If, at some time in the future, we have greater rental stock and a need for more short term rentals, we can always revisit this,” Stearns said.
Mayor Collings pointed out the amount of time spent discussing the matter and the fact that a typically cohesive council maintained a divided vote. “This is obviously a tough issue,” he said.
Collings said his vote to deny the ordinance was an effort to preserve the tight-knit neighborhoods.
“If you want a big city, fast paced lifestyle, there are throngs of places you can do that,” he said.
Harkness pointed out that people living in R1 zones are already renting their homes out without an administrative permit. He said he found seven listings on Airbnb.com located in R1 zones.
“This industry is happening, whether we like it or not,” Harkness said. “I think we need to be fair and equitable to all lodging in the city as far as collecting TOTs go.”