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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. What is the problem with Vacation Rentals?

    I haven't seen any comment about what the problem is with having a house used as a vacation rental.  What are the experiences that have driven people to be so concerned about it? It seems to me that as long as it is a residental use, it is not in violation of the zoning of a residential neighborhood.  What if my neighbor wishes to rent out her house – why would that be a problem for me or my neighbors?  It is her house, and as the owner, she still has to abide by the existing rules.  She still has the obligation to keep up the appearance of the house and property (maybe even more so now that she is trying to attract renters!) – anyway, there are existing laws about maintaining your property just in case. Also, if the people themselves are too raucous, there are laws about that too.  Leaves me wondering just what exactly is the big deal with this that we now need even more laws? 

     

  2. Get a life people!

    I am simply stunned at the insanity that is taking place. "Wynne says she's very much in favor of moving forward with speed to create an ordinance that prohibits vacation rentals." Huh? What? (Oh, wait! That's right, she was the woman who objected to Girls Hope, a charitable rooming house that after months of uproar proved to be a non-issue and perfectly compatible in the neighborhood.)There are already plenty of ordinances to regulate rentals. (i.e. property standards, police). If someone wants (or needs) to rent their house to someone else, that's their business. Whether it's for 3 nights, 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years, it does not matter. It's their property. Maybe they need the money to keep from going backcrupt (due to their crasy property taxes). Maybe they want some company.  And those who want to control their neighbors, why? Maybe your kids are dribbling that basketball outside my window when I prefer they didn't Maybe I don't like that you don't edge trim your drinking water sucking lawn. Maybe I don't like that you cut your lawn on Saturdays. I could make a long list and bring it to the Council, whining about all the things I don't like my neighbors doing. What you need is to move to a farm or ranch. This here is a city. It's urban. Get a life people!

  3. Complete over-reaction

    The committee's over-reaction to very limited complaints from neighbors is ludicrous and misinformed. I do not intend to rent out my home, but it should be my right to so so, as long as I comply with other Evanston laws and respect my neighbors. I have stayed at similar home rentals in various cities and my impression is that property owners carefully scrutizine guests who will be using their property. Frequently the owner is on site and the owners have very little incentive to allow a "party house" atmosphere. 

    Maybe our aldermen and women should get out a little more. Or maybe they should hop on the internet, which has enabled this kind of home-based travel, allowing people to subsize their incomes, creating freindships and bonds across state and national lines and providing a low-cost alternative to hotels. 

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