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Evanston Planning and Development Committee

Here's our live coverage of the Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. The only items on the agenda tonight are an ordinance that would amend building height limits in residential zones and a discussion of what, if anything, to do about vacation rentals.

Agenda – Meeting called to order at 7:15 p.m.

A packet with details of the agenda items is available online.

Minutes – Approved.

Building height zoning changes.

Melissa Klotz, zoning planner, reviews the proposed changes.

Details on this proposal in this story.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says its a good change, makes the zoning more logical and fair for everyone. Says it eliminates odd loopholes that would let creative architects come up with uncommon designs..

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, reads a letter from an architect who says all existing homes — not just those 50 or more years old — should be grandfathered into the ordinance.

Klotz says all those properties would be considered legal non-conforming. Says could request a rebuild letter from the zoning administrator. That quite often is granted, but gives discretion.

Rainey says she doesn't like that that exception. Says it have an old home with a narrow lot — should be grandfathered in — regardless of the age. Says it is legal nonconforming now it should be able to be restored as it is.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says he agrees with Rainey, should amend the ordinance to include any legally non-conforming home as of the date of adoption of the ordinance.

Amendment approved. Ordinance approved.

Short-term home rentals, a.k.a. vacation rentals.

Public Comment

Mark Rozati, 2509 Ashland, says has two homes on his block that are being used as short term rentals. Says would not have bought there if had a hotel next door.

David Reynolds, 204 Davis, compares the vacation rental situation to bed and breakfasts — which he's opposed. He says people who purchase homes in Evanston don't expect to have commercial operations next door. Says shouldn't benefit one owner financially at the expense of the rest of the neighorhood.

Several speakers, including Jim Mullenix of 2525 Ashland, claim that existing city ordinances bar the vacation rental use under limits on home occupations.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says bed and breakfasts are very different from vacation rentals. Says there's no supervision on site of vacation rentals. They're advertised as party houses, she says. Says have had not one good experience, giving a situation in her ward.

Says would consider a vacation rental for a months or a couple of weeks, but not the way its set up now. Says she agrees that it's a home occupation that can be barred under existing ordinances.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, says City Council has affirmed its interest in having B&Bs, but now is confronted with the issue of vacation rentals — seem somewhat similar, but different.

Asks corporation counsel to explain whether home occupation code applies.

Grant Farrar says tried to take an aggressive approach on the enforcement issue. Says the federal court case is still ongoing — so can't comment on it — except to say that disagree with the court's position.

On nuisance violation issues, got no traction.

Says important at this point to do a comprehensive look at the issue. Would be counterproductive to try another enforcement action now, might still run into the same issue of not being received well by the Zoning Board of Appeals or the courts.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, asks for more clarification about the federal court judge's ruling — and what, in light of that, city can do to ban vacation rentals.

Farrar says can develop a new ordinance that would license or regulate such rentals.

Says doesn't believe existing law touches on every issue that's invoked by the vacation rental scheme. Says the best way to enforce is to have a good ordinance.

Wynne says she's very much in favor of moving forward with speed to create an ordinance that prohibits vacation rentals — or sets a minimum duration, like Rainey proposed.

Says she agrees with Reynold's objections that B&Bs are like vacation rentals. Says its the same problem, just with a different label.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says would like an analysis prepared on the legality of a ban on vacation rentals. Says its very different than a B&B. Would not want the ordinance to ban B&Bs.

Grover supports ban on vacation rentals.

Rainey says need to figure out the legality of a ban before commenting on whether want one.

Fiske says she's struck by the similarity of B&Bs and vacation rentals.

(Fiske and Wynne were the two aldermen who voted in favor of new regulations on B&Bs that were rejected by the rest of the council.)

Rainey says in vacation rental gives tenant absolute control over all of the property — basement, yard, entire house. Can have anybody there they want at any time of the day or night. Says believes B&Bs have expectation that there will be supervision on site.

Says the house on the north end of town, 2515 Ashland, sounds like a rooming house that would require an license under existing ordinances. (Woman lives in the house and rents out individual rooms.) Says in contrast the one in her ward, the whole property is being rented out to a single renter.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says she's concerned about doing it piecemeal. — B&B, vs renting out entire house for short term, vs. renting out individual rooms for short term.

Need to come up with something on the books that will be enforceable, she says.

Wilson moves to have the staff prepare an ordinance that would address the various alternatives. Grover says should also include analysis of existing rooming house and boarding house ordinances. Wilson agrees.

Committee votes unanimously to give staff that direction.

Meeting adjourns.

City Council meeting to start at 8:15 p.m.

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