Many concerned owners, neighbors and property managers showed up at the City of Bozeman Commission meeting last night to pipe up about the City’s discussion about where vacation rentals go from here.
City commission holds initial discussion on vacation rental regulation – Bozeman Daily Chronicle
By Eric Dietrich 6-12-16
Regulating vacation rentals, if that’s what Bozeman wants to do, isn’t necessarily going to be straightforward, city commissioners heard Monday evening.
City staff, presenting initial suggestions as the city considers tackling the growing number of properties rented on a short-term basis through services like Airbnb or VRBO, told the commission they don’t currently have a solid grasp on the number of the short-term units operating inside the city — or the personnel to take proactive enforcement measures.
Furthermore, the city planning staff who would be tasked with developing a potential ordinance are already stretched thin as they process routine development applications and work on a major rewrite as the city’s development code, said Planning Director Wendy Thomas.
“This is not an effort to be undertaken without recognizing it will demand resources,” she said, noting the city currently has only a single code enforcement officer.
An initial review of listings on sites like VRBO, Homeaway and Airbnb indicates that there are as many as 450 homes available for short-term rentals in the Bozeman area, Thomas said, though it’s unclear how many of those are duplicate listings or outside city limits.
There are currently 43 short-term rentals licensed through the city’s business licensing program, city staff estimate, and 84 properties with a Bozeman address approved as public accommodations through the city-county health department.
While Airbnb-style listings of apartments has had an impact on housing availability in some larger cities, city staff also say, it doesn’t appear that’s a significant factor in Bozeman.
Tens of residents crowded the city commission’s chambers Monday evening, most there to weigh in on either the vacation rentals or another agenda item, food truck regulation. As the commission took up rentals and a number of other issues, the food truck discussion appeared likely to be delayed.
Most speakers on the vacation rental issue, even some who identified themselves as property managers, urged the commission to take some sort of reasonable action on the issue.
“I think the time is right for local regulation of vacation rentals,” said Suzy Hall with Mountain Home Montana Vacation Rentals.
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“Managers and owners should be held accountable,” she said. “If homes are well-managed, this is almost a non-issue.”
Several speakers who identified themselves as neighbors of current rentals also cited concerns around the erosion of their neighborhood character, or experiences with rowdy renters.
One, Suzanne Held, said she lives near two short-term rentals, one with an on-site owner and the other with an absentee owner, and sees a difference in terms of how the properties are managed.
“The character of a neighborhood changes when Airbnbs come in. I don’t know who the people are. I don’t have a relationship with them,” she also said. “I do think it does have a negative effect on the feel of our neighborhood.”