News from the Knoff Group

Bozeman Commission approves temporary ban of vacation rental CUPs

I’d have to agree with the ‘Draconian’ flavor of this move – but reading deeper you’ll notice it is only a ban on conditional use permits in these zones.  And there were only 5 ever issued to start off with. Still, high drama in the City of Bozeman.

Commission approves temporary ban of vacation rental permits

by Eric Dietrich Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Bozeman commissioners voted Monday evening for a six-month halt to issuing permits for vacation rentals in some of the city’s neighborhoods.

The decision came despite substantial public testimony largely in opposition to an interim zoning ordinance, with vacation rental operators and others arguing that the practice was being unfairly targeted and that action from the city was premature or outright unnecessary.

Other residents had previously lobbied the commission to look at restricting the practice, saying they were concerned about noise and traffic from an increasing number of homes converted to vacation rentals in their neighborhoods south of Main Street.

“While there have been short-term rentals since time immemorial, the number of them is growing,” said Commissioner Chris Mehl. “Given the choices we have, I think it makes sense to have this interim time so we can study this and get a handle on it.”

“In my mind, the situation is on the edge of being a problem, and we’re trying to get ahead of it,” said Mayor Carson Taylor.

“This is not an epidemic. There are 40,000 housing units in the city of Bozeman,” said Molly Yarnell, who has run a vacation rental and works for a local software company. Her analysis of Airbnb and Homeaway data indicates there are only 100 homes listed for short-term rental in Bozeman, she said, compared to the city’s estimate of 450.

“I think that it’s way, way premature,” said another operator, Richard Martell, calling the interim ordinance a “draconian response.”

“With all due respect, I don’t think you have enough accurate information,” he said. “I would like you to slow down and conduct a study as you purport to do, and based on that study, make decisions.”

“I would really encourage you not to impose a ban, shut us down, vilify us,” said another operator, Carisa Fisher. It’s not uncommon for her to look out of her home and see long-term renters drinking on a nearby roof, she said, asking why the city was looking at cracking down on short-term rentals but not traditional ones.

Along with Mehl and Taylor, Deputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus and Commissioner Jeff Krauss supported the measure, which halts the issuance of new conditional use permits for short-term rentals in lower-density residential neighborhoods designated as R-1, R-2, R-S or NEHMU zoning. Commissioner I-Ho Pomeroy was absent.

Short-term rentals, which by the letter of the law also require a city business permit and a sign-off from the city-county health department, remain allowed without a separate conditional use permit in other parts of the city. A handful of properties previously approved for conditional use permits in the lower-density districts won’t be affected by Monday’s interim ordinance, and an in-process application for a sixth property is set to be considered next week.

The six-month expiration date on the interim ordinance gives the city a deadline for developing a comprehensive plan for addressing vacation rentals, trying to sort out the pros and cons of the practice in its various forms and craft policy attempting to address it.

“We’re going to use a process, of which all of you should be involved in,” Taylor said, saying he doesn’t expect to end up banning short-term rentals outright.

“It’s clear to me that there are somewhere in the 100s of short-term rentals that are ‘flying under the radar,’ meaning they don’t have a business license or they haven’t been inspected by the health department or there may be a fire safety issue that hasn’t come to light or whatever,” he said.

“We need to figure out what’s going on,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Source: Commission approves temporary ban of vacation rental permits