Spring Park city council members had in September upheld a ban on short-term rentals within the city and strengthened the existing language in the city code around this prohibition. Three months later, the city approved the first permit for such a rental to continue operation, legally. How?
By matching the temporary to the temporary.
A new section on interim use was added by split vote to the city code Dec. 21, and it gives a handful of Spring Park residents a round-about way to rent out their single-family homes to vacationers and others who seek only a short-term stay.
The 4-1 vote that sanctioned this new provision was driven by the applicant for that first approved permit, one for a vacation rental on Shoreline Drive that has been in operation for four years, technically in violation until now.
Council members and city staff were not blind to the implications of interim use. The consideration for retaining well-run vacation rentals was at the forefront of the push this fall, and these types of operations were specifically included as allowable interim uses in the language of the final ordinance.
The city first looked at the interim use idea at an October work session, just two weeks after the prohibition on short-term rentals, also sometimes referred to as vacation rentals or VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), was upheld.
At the time, concern was focused on one resident who had appealed to council members throughout the discussions preceding September’s vote. But the impact of this resident’s voice may now allow for an additional 10 homeowners to lease out their homes on a short-term basis should they apply with the city to do so.
Early in the discussion this fall, staff and council had briefly looked at approving rezoning requests on a case-by-case basis for those homeowners who wanted to rent out their homes short-term. The relative permanence of rezoning, the resultant patchwork nature of having commercial pockets within single family neighborhoods and the lengthy process involved in any zoning request combined to torpedo this option.
Council member Mark Chase, dialing in remotely Dec. 21, lauded the new interim use provision as “a great compromise.”
But council member Jeff Hoffman, who also serves as chair of the city’s planning commission, wasn’t so keen. He provided the sole dissent that Monday.
Hoffman had no additional comments to make Dec. 21, but he had indicated during the November work session that his opinion came down to one of maintaining the safeguards of zoning regulations, particularly those established for residential districts. Hoffman also displayed a wariness that in approving interim use in this way—as a reaction to one man’s request—that the city would be acting against the will of other residents, given the recent rental debate and subsequent rejection of VRBO, and that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Spring Park’s September rejection of short-term rentals city-wide had hinged in large part on those zoning considerations and was also augmented by concerns around parking and potential nuisance violations caused by transient dwellers.
But the city has at times shown itself amenable to VRBO. That September vote had followed a more than two-year process that had actually begun with an exploration into regulating, and thereby allowing, short-term rental in the city. Previously, the city code had tacitly prohibited rentals of fewer than 30 days via a catchall phrase that prohibits uses not specifically provided for in the code; the September vote strengthened the ban through specific mention of short-term rentals as prohibited use.
The change to allow interim use in the city does not mean that Spring Park is permitting vacation rentals outright, only that there is now a way to run such an operation openly if certain conditions are met.
“We were able to establish performance standards that limit the number of short-term rentals in the city on a locational basis and on the basis of trying to ensure that these would operate in a continued manner that is compatible with the surrounding residential land uses,” said Al Brixius, city planner for Spring Park.
Only those homeowners whose property is adjacent to a commercial district and fronts onto either Shoreline Drive or Sunset Drive, the city’s two major corridors, will be able to rent out their homes for the short term.
No physical alterations to the house in order to accommodate a VRBO will be allowed, and issued permits will distinguish the number of bedrooms available and guests allowed at any given time. Permits will also make stipulations around events and parking.
The city will also require an initial inspection for short-term rental operations, a late addition to the ordinance made Dec. 21 just prior to final approval.
“A lot of these performance standards were initially looked at when we looked at short-term rental throughout the city,” said Brixius, who added that interim use would give the city and its residents “protections as far as bringing this commercial use into a residential zoning district.”
Further such “protections” are locked in the very nature of interim use. Interim use permits are, as implied by their name, interim; they’re non-transferrable and would automatically expire if the property is sold, if the permit is not renewed or if the city does not grant approval for a renewal.