News from the Knoff Group

Commission delays vacation rental decision – stricter proposals on the table

The city commission yet again has tabled the discussion on the vacation rental issue, this time until June 22nd.  Below are two articles that recently ran in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Bozeman commissioners delay decision on vacation rentals
By Eric Dietrich Chronicle Staff Writer May 22, 2017

After several hours of public comment Monday evening, much of it from residents opposed to regulations proposed for Airbnb-style vacation rentals inside city limits, Bozeman commissioners delayed action on the measure until June 22.

While several residents, most of whom have previously urged the commission to take actions on vacation rentals, said they supported the regulations as proposed Monday, many others lined up against the action.

“Every year, there are more and more of these,” said South Third Street resident Beth Antonopulos, a regulation supporter.

“Our neighborhood is being hollowed out,” she said, adding she’s worried they’ll eventually be left living in “a resort neighborhood.”

Opponents, many of them short-term rental operators, said they didn’t see the practice as deserving major intervention by the city.

Several commenters pointed to Bozeman Cottage Vacation Rentals, run by Paul House since the late 1990s, as a local business that could be forced to close under the regulations as proposed Monday. Among other things, the proposal would have banned short-term rentals in certain parts of the city in homes without a live-in owner at least half the year.
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“Banning STR’s will not magically revert those homes back to long-term residences,” House said, adding that he does support a cap on the number of rentals.

Marjorie Smith, a North Church resident, said she rents out her above-garage apartment to help pay the loan she used to build it, and prefers to do it on a short-term basis because it lets her block out dates so her daughter and son-in-law can visit, or so she can put up a visiting opera performer in a way that she couldn’t if it had a full-time tenant.

“The only way I can pay off the mortgage is to rent it — and I want to do it short-term,” she said.

Stricter vacation rental proposal heading before Bozeman commission Monday By Eric Dietrich Chronicle Staff Writer May 21, 2017

Bozeman commissioners will take another look at regulations for short-term rentals at their weekly meeting Monday, potentially adopting an ordinance requiring registration for all Airbnb-style operations and banning full-home, short-term rentals outright in some neighborhoods.

However, while several commissioners expressed interest in capping short-term rental density when they last discussed the issue in April, the city staffers charged with working out regulations are saying that would be difficult to implement and have left it out of the proposal.

As proposed, the regulations would involve sorting short-term rentals, those rented for “transient occupancy,” into three categories based on how involved the homeowner is with the property.

“Type I” rentals, under the city’s categorization, are situations where owners rent out spare rooms while staying in their homes, and “Type II” rentals are situations where owners rent their homes when they’re not present. “Type III” rentals, in contrast, involve homes that aren’t owner-occupied, like a vacation home rented out by someone who lives someplace else in the city.

City commissioners have said they want less stringent regulations for Type I Airbnb’s, on the logic that having an owner who’s sharing quarters with their guests can help avoid problems like noise from late-night partying. The city has said it wants to have more limits on Type III rentals, however, out of concern they might erode neighborhood character by turning homes into de facto hotel operations.

The ordinance being considered Monday would require that homeowners in any of the three rental categories register with the city, something the city plans to enforce by requiring that a rental’s registration number be displayed on advertising like Airbnb or listings.

It would also ban Type II rentals outright in R-S and R-1 districts, the city’s lowest-density residential zoning designations, and ban Type III rentals in R-S, R-1 and R-2 zoning — action that would prohibit full-home Airbnbs in most neighborhoods south of downtown.

While the city has hoped to make registration a nominal hassle for Type I rentals, most of whom currently fly under the public radar, it looks like that’s going to be complicated by the local health department, which considers all short-term rentals public accommodations.

Under the state health code, public accommodations need a fire inspection and separate license from the health department. That means even occasional Airbnb hosts who want to follow the rules will need to file paperwork with two separate agencies, pay multiple fees and be inspected by both city fire staff and the health department, according to a two-page flow chart included in commission briefing materials.

On the density-cap front, city staff say it would be tricky to fairly implement a policy that, say, limits vacation rentals to one per block. That sort of effort would be time-intensive to track and enforce, they say, and create “an inequitable situation where some property owners in a zoning district could have greater rights in their property than others.”

Depending on how the city decides who gets a limited number of permits, a vacation rental-adverse homeowner could snatch up a block’s lone permit but not rent out their home, blocking neighbors who would be interested in operating Airbnbs themselves.

“Staff also questions whether a density cap would be effective,” they write. “It’s possible a density cap would encourage (short-term rental) owners from registering, and they would continue to operate their (rental) ‘under the radar’ as they have in the past.”