The Auburn City Council Short-Term Rental Task Force held a public-input meeting last week where numerous residents spoke about a draft ordinance that would regulate homes rented through popular services like Airbnb and VRBO. 

"We’ve been kicking the can down the road for a while, and it’s just time for us to have a philosophy as a city," said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders.

The big takeaway from the meeting? That the city's proposed ordinance was too restrictive. 

Anders, Planning Director Forrest Cotten and Councilmen Bob Parsons and Brett Smith, who are both on the task force, all noted that the proposed ordinance was drafted by planning staff to provide a starting point for discussions on the issue.

Planning Commissioners Marcus Marshall and Bob Ritenbaugh, who was not present at the meeting, have also been added to the task force.

"We’re just using this document as a starting point without any particular bias towards any of it. It’s a point from where we can begin a conversation. Our job, as I see it, is to represent your views," said Parsons. "I’m not coming here with any particular notion of how it’s going to look."

The proposed ordinance for short-term rentals would categorize them as "homestays."

A definition of a homestay, according to the draft ordinance, is a "home occupation in which an individual who owns a dwelling and uses it as his or her permanent residence hires out, as lodging, such dwelling, or any portion thereof."

Homestays would only be allowed as a home occupation business in the Urban Core, Urban Neigborhoods – East, West and South, Redevelopment District, Comprehensive Development District, and Corridor Redevelopment Districts Suburban and Urban. They would not be permitted in areas zoned for Neighborhood Preservation. A homestay would only be allowed to operate 30 days a year if the residence is not owner-occupied.

Most residents who spoke at the meeting said the ordinance was too restrictive, although most noted that they have no problem paying a business license and taxes, among other suggestions. 

Drew Goodner, a member of the Board of Zoning Adjustment who also owns property downtown on College Street and on Payne Street that he uses as short-term rentals, was one of the residents to criticize the ordinance.

"I think this ordinance as written effectively kills downtown Auburn," said Goodner, who added that the 30-day operational limit for short-term rentals on properties that are not owner occupied would make no sense in the context of downtown. "I think it needs to be expanded and allowed in other areas," including neighborhood conservation districts.

The problems of parking, noise and trash were brought up by those against allowing short-term rentals in neighborhoods, with some for a less-restrictive ordinance suggesting a three-strikes rule as a possible compromise.

Carolyn Carr, who lives on Payne Street and is president of an informal group that also includes residents who live on Hare Avenue and Pinedale Drive, said she's received a number of calls from neighbors who do not want to see short-term rentals in the area, but would at least want a compromise that the home being used as a short-term rental be someone's permanent residence and not just a home being rented out full-time by a business.

"At the very least, there should be somebody there that neighbors could talk to," she said, citing numerous incidents involving noise from parties by her house. 

Smith indicated that the task force will next have a work session that incorporates the feedback they've gotten, and that any changes would be published.

"I’m looking for reasonable, common-sense regulations," Parsons said.

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