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Panel votes to limit B&B ownership

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Prompted by aldermen who voted against a bed and breakfast approved last fall for 300 Church St. on the Evanston lakefront, a Plan Commission committee Tuesday voted to require that majority owners of future B&Bs live at the property.

Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, claimed that the ownership structure of the 300 Church St. property — a limited liability company in which the majority owner lives across an alley from the property and the property is to be managed by a resident owner with just a 1 percent ownership interest in the LLC — violated the spirit of the city's bed and breakfast ordinance adopted 15 years ago.

Fiske said the original concept was just for an empty-nester couple to be able to rent out a couple of bedrooms in their home.

The two aldermen initially sought to bar any corporate ownership of the business, but the plan commissioners rejected that, concluding that for legal liability purposes any bed and breakfast owner would be wise to incorporate or form a limited liability company.

Commissioner Dave Galloway said he agreed that the owner should reside in the property and have control of the business, so that if there's a problem the city doesn't have to chase after an absentee landlord. But he said the form of the ownership structure shouldn't matter.

Commissioner Richard Shure raised the question of what would happen if homeowners had placed their house in a trust for estate planning purposes, an issue that did not appear to be clearly addressed in the proposed change approved by the panel, which specifies that owners of more than a 50 percent interest in the property would have to live there.

The committee also voted to:

  • Maintain existing restrictions that bar signs on B&Bs in residential neighborhoods.
  • Add a requirement that B&Bs provide one parking space per dwelling unit plus one space per guest room, which matches an existing rule in Oak Park.
  • Reject a proposal from Fiske to limit B&Bs to two bedrooms or 30 percent of the bedrooms in a home. Instead committee members voted to maintain the current limit of five rental bedrooms per B&B, which matches the limit in state law.
  • Rejected a proposal that would have required B&Bs to operate for less than the full year.
  • Agreed that special use permits for B&Bs should be limited to the current owner, and not run with the land.
  • Required that any proposed B&B be located a least 900 feet from any other B&B.

The committee failed to reach agreement on whether to limit special events that could be held at a B&B to three a year, or to not permit them at all.

The proposed regulations will be formally presented to the full Plan Commission at its Feb. 8 meeting. The ultimate decision on the changes will be up to the City Council.

Top: The 300 Church St. property that prompted the debate over bed and breakfast regulations (File photo).

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