Anyone hoping to rent out a home to vacationers would have to plan ahead under an ordinance scheduled for introduction at tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting.

The ordinance would treat vacation rentals similarly to bed and breakfast establishments and require that would-be users go through the same special use approval process required for B&Bs.

It typically takes a minimum of 90 days to win approval for a special use, The approval process for what’s so far the only property in the city approved for use as a B&B, at 300 Church St., took closer to six months.

The City Council was hopelessly divided last month when faced with two alternative proposals from staff — one to ban vacation rentals completely, the other to license them.

The new plan to some extent splits the difference between the previous two proposals.

It would be considerably more restrictive than a license and would give aldermen the discretion to bar a particular property from vacation rental use for essentially any reason they chose.

But it would at least make it possible to win approval for vacation rentals in residential zones as well as B1, T1 and T2 zones.

The proposed ordinance also makes some modifications to the bed and breakfast regulations — making the provision of breakfast optional and allowing them to be established in any kind of residential structure — not just a single-family or two-family home. But bed and breakfasts would still be limited to offering no more than five guest rooms for rent.

The vacation rental provisions would only apply to rentals of 28 days or less — so that, for example, a faculty member leaving for a year on sabattical could rent out his or her home for the full sabbatical period to a single tenant without having to seek approval to operate a vacation rental.

The vacation rental concept has proved difficult for the City Council to deal with, ever since neighbors of one property on Ashland Avenue near Ryan Field started complaining about it last fall.

Other residents have reported operating such facilities without incident and some residents have suggested that regulating the rentals is an unnecessary infringement on the bundle of rights they acquired when they purchased their home.

Vacation rental supporters also argue that the concept — spurred by the emergence of online vacation rental listing services — represents a significant source of new economic activity for the community.

Under the newly proposed ordinance, violations could bring citations that would be handled by the city’s administrative adjudication process.

Related stories

City eyes new vacation rental control scheme

Vacation rentals and economic develpment

Aldermen stumped by vacation rentals

Vacation rentals: Ban, license or leave alone?

Vacation rentals to get the workshop treatment

Vacation rental ban: Will it work?

Neighbors howl about vacation rental on Ashland

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. A wide net with detrimental impacts.

    This staff-proposed approach is a big step backwards.  The proposed ordinance essentially prohibits all rentals for periods of less than 30 days unless the property owner applies for and receives a special use permit.  If adopted, the following scenarios would be essentially outlawed:

    – A property owner that sells their home but rents the home from one week from the new owner until the seller's new home closes.

    – An Evanston family, whose home was impacted by sever flooding, that rents a vacant home down the street while their home undergoes renovation.

    – A family from Florida that travels to Evanston for specialized medical treatment for their child and rents an apartment for two weeks.

    – A visiting researcher from Europe that travels to Evanston for a two week period to collorabate with a Northwestern Univ. professor and rents an apartment for that time period.

    This ordinance seeks to burden and stifle the entire community instead of narrowly addressing the types of properties of concern – those running quasi-hotels in residential neighborhoods.  Instead of  a very narrow approach, this ordinance casts a wide net that will detrimentally impact Evanston's real estate and economy.  It should be soundly rejected.

    Howard Handler
    Government Affairs Director
    North Shore – Barrington Assoc. of REALTORS

    1. I have a solution

      Howard Handler cites many examples of when renting a house, for a short term, makes sense:

      a family whose house is being repaired, a family visiting the hospital, a researcher visiting NU for a few weeks, etc…

      I agree that letting people rent houses for a week would be a good idea, so I think that  REALTORS  ( sorry…that's REALTORS® )  are correct  in opposing this ordinance.

      But I can think of another option…instead of renting houses…for people who need short-term housing.  Something that would apply to all of the situations above….

      Maybe we could get something like Extended Stay in downtown Evanston.  A place where visitors could stay for a week or month on a short assignment….without having to pay for all the extras like daily maid service and swimming pools at the Hiltons.

      We have an empty lot on Chicago Ave. where the Heil & Heil building used to be…that seems like a nice spot for a Residence Inn, Extended Stay, or similar longer term hotel.

  2. Please let this go away

    I do hope our council will end this nonsense once and for all.  This entire string of events is the result of one person complaining about one house, which all agreed was clearly a situation that our existing laws could have addressed.  If there was ever a case of a solution looking for a problem, it is this.  We do not need any new laws here, and they will certainly only spark litigation and frustration. Please, please, let this go away, and put our government's focus on real problems and issues that impact the people of Evanston

  3. Doesn’t mean anything without enforcement

    Don't worry, Howard, the city does nothing to enforce its existing zoning and property standards codes so if people want to rent property in those senarios they will still be able to.

    A call to the city to complain about these matters doesn't get looked at for weeks–by the time they investigate all of the scenarios you described will no longer be occuring so property owners have no fear of being penalized for not following the new ordinance.

    Have at it!

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