The Auburn Planning Commission will likely take over the process of creating an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals in the city soon, after the Short-Term Rentals Task Force met last week to discuss the topic and make recommendations for the direction it desires the commission to take.
The task force reviewed some details of a draft ordinance, which staff said was just a starting point based on public input, but only gave consensus on one recommendation to planning staff.
Planning Director Forrest Cotten said that once he gets the order from the task force that they are ready to send the issue to the Planning Commission, he will set up work sessions.
"The Planning Commission is willing to work with as much or as little direction as given," he said. "Fundamentally, it’s the Planning Commission’s job to review and make recommendations on anything that relates to the zoning ordinance ... We’ll roll our sleeves up and get started with the Planning Commission whenever we’re directed to."
Cotten said it could take a couple of work sessions to get the details worked out. In the final steps, which could begin in November or December at the earliest, a proposed ordinance would be considered by the Planning Commission, then the City Council. At both meetings, public hearings will be scheduled to give residents yet another opportunity to provide input on the topic.
For the better part of a year, the task force has been gathering input from individuals in public forums and online surveys and has received conflicting feedback.
"This is a complicated subject; there's no easy way to fix it," Mayor Ron Anders said. "There's a lot of passion; there's a lot of different ideas. To believe that we're going to end up somewhere that makes everybody happy is not reasonable, but I do believe it's important for us to end up somewhere."
He added that he would support re-evaluating the initial regulations in the future.
"I would be a strong advocate that one year later, the City Council have a work session with the planning staff, the code staff, and say 'OK, this is working, or is this not working. Are there changes we need to make?'" he said.
Task Force Recommendations
In its latest meeting, the Short-Term Rentals Task Force discussed details of possible regulations for just under two hours. Discussion was framed around the city's latest drafted ordinance.
The draft creates a new home occupation called a homestay and a new residential use called short-term non-primary rental.
A homestay is a home occupation in which a homeowner hires out as lodging his or her permanent residence, or a portion of it. Homestays would be allowed anywhere in the city, though in certain areas could only operate for so many days each calendar year.
Short-term non-primary rentals (STNPR) are different from homestays in that they are not defined as home occupations — they are a residential use — and are not permanent residences of their owners.
The current draft limits the number of days STNPRs and homestays could be operated, but the task force did not weigh in on what those numbers should be, deciding that this detail would be best vetted by the Planning Commission.
The main recommendation the task force did make, though, regards limiting the number of zoning districts in which STNPRs could operate.
Members reviewed a map where a green overlay covers the areas in which STNPRs would be permitted by right and a tan overlay shows where they would be conditional.
Councilman Bob Parsons, who sits on the task force, said he would like to see the tan overlay — covering zones Neighborhood Conservation, Development District Housing, Neighborhood Redevelopment District and Redevelopment District — removed so that STNPRs would be allowed only in the Urban Core, Urban Neighborhoods-South, -East and -West and Corridor Redevelopment Districts-Urban, -Suburban and -West (shaded green on the map). The task force members agreed with this recommendation.
"I think that's a very reasonable recommendation and easily understandable," Cotten said during the meeting.
The task force did discuss whether to prohibit or limit homestays in zones with family definitions — meaning they allow no more than two unrelated occupants per residence. Those zones include Neighborhood Conservation, Development District Housing and Limited Development District.
Task force member Anna Solomon suggested developing a quota for the number of homestays allowed on certain streets so the city doesn't become "short-term rental everything," but Councilman Brett Smith, who sits on the task force, said that would easily move the city into property rights issues.
By the end of the meeting, no recommendation was made on the matter.
Anders encouraged task force members and residents to reach out with further comments. No further task force meetings are scheduled at this time.