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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 after city action last 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 fewer. 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.

Although 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 have not yet been a huge issue for the village. 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.

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