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Yorkville City Council OKs 'Airbnb' short-term rentals code addition

YORKVILLE – Looking to be an Airbnb host in Yorkville? It's a little clearer of what is allowed and where following city action earlier this week.

The Yorkville City Council voted, 8-0, to add the definition and some regulations for short-term rentals in residential zoning districts in the city during their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 14 at City Hall, 800 Game Farm Road. The matter was passed on to City Council after the city's Planning and Zoning Commission voted, 4-0, to approve the additions during their April 10 meeting; commissioners Deborah Horaz and Randy Harker were not present at the April 10 meeting.

City Senior Planner Jason Engberg said during the April 10 meeting the specific code additions include defining a short-term rental as a single-family dwelling unit rented out to transients and travelers staying at that location for 30 days or less. He said the short-term rentals as defined would also be allowed only in residential districts.

“It’s one of those things that can be a controversial topic and a lot of cities over the past five years have been trying to figure out, when does a house you start renting out … become a hotel, when does it become not-residential and is it in the right zone,” Engberg said.

While it doesn't seem to be that prevalent in the community currently, Engberg said, it's starting to become an emerging topic and the city wanted to be proactive in looking at how they want to approach the matter.

Some common marketplaces and websites that offer similar types of short-term rentals, where people rent out their properties or spare rooms to traveling guests, include Airbnb, HomeAway or TurnKey. Those types of rentals may include entire apartments and houses or a room in a house, and hosts may or may not live at the property as well.

City Administrator Bart Olson said a few hosts within town contacted the city to ask if there was a license they could obtain to operate an Airbnb within city limits and the matter had been unaddressed in city code previously. He said arguments about it not being allowed or not allowed because it's not addressed in city code have been made, which made it more confusing.

"Rather than have the limbo status on that proposal, we reviewed a proposal to license and regulate it … and the City Council decided they would permit that outright," Olson said.

A few local Airbnb listings include a farmhouse in Yorkville, an apartment in Oswego and an actual train car in Plano. Exact addresses are not included in the listings and they are provided to renters after making their reservations.

Plano Mayor Bob Hausler said the city hasn't really considered the issue very much. He said Airbnbs haven't been a top priority in the city but he thinks it will have to be addressed in future.

Hausler said short-term rentals should have a similar type of tax as the hotel and motel tax that the city currently collects from traditional hotels and motels. He said it might also make sense for the city to eventually have a registry of Airbnb-like properties so they can properly enforce those types of tax collections.

“If a bed and breakfast is required to pay that hotel/motel tax, I feel short-term rental units should be part of that, too," Hausler said.

Jenette Sturges, community relations coordinator for the Village of Oswego, said Airbnbs haven't been a huge issue for the village as of yet. She said the preference is for visitors to stay in hotels so that the community can benefit from the city's hotel and motel tax revenue, but in the meantime, she hasn't seen anything about short-term rentals in the area causing problems in neighborhoods.

“If that changes, we would certainly look at some kind of regulation,” Sturges said.

Downtown Streetscape plan update

The council also voted to send the proposed downtown overlay and streetscapes plan back to the city's economic development committee.

Olson said the action follows discussion among city officials about gravel shoulders around the roadways around nearby residences, along with some building classification errors within the proposed form-based code that would need to be corrected.

“Rather than debate those points in depth at end of the city council meeting, the mayor suggested to kick it back to committee before it’s [considered by] city council,” Olson said.

Olson said the exact timeline from the recent City Council action and beyond has yet to be determined.

Old Jail update

Meanwhile, city officials also discussed what's been going on with the sale of the building at 111 W. Madison St., also known as the old county jail.

Olson said both applicants were requested to tighten up their requested tax increment financing requests for their proposed projects.

“Both of them had asked for additional walk-throughs to tighten up their construction budgets and figure out how much assistance they actually need,” Olson said.

More substantial updates are expected to be brought before the City Council during their June 11 meeting, Olson said.

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