City puts kibosh on more VRBOs

Jason Ferguson

If you were planning to operate a vacation rental in a residential district within the city limits of the City of Custer, don’t bother.
At least, if you plan to operate one legally.
At the May 16 meeting of the Custer City Council, the council approved amending its ordinance that deals with permitted conditional uses and prohibited uses and structures within a residential district by making boarding houses and short term rentals a prohibited use in said residential areas.
In short, there is no vacancy for more vacation rentals in residential areas as far as the city is concerned.
City planning administrator Tim Hartmann said the city’s planning commission investigated and discussed the issue and determined with the multitude of such rentals already available combined with a lack of housing in town, it was time to do away with new vacation rentals. The ordinance change does not affect areas zoned commercial, nor does it eliminate already-established short term rentals. Those that already exist will be grandfathered in with the existing conditional use permit. However, the permit is not transferable, and if the property is sold, the permit goes away.
The commission also touched on the issue of what are known as “vampire listings,” homes that are operating as vacation rentals without the required conditional use permit.
Hartmann said there are main platforms where the rentals can be tracked, but it can be challenging to do so. There are third-party companies that will do the tracking for the city, and can warn the city about homes that may be operating as a vacation rental without the proper permit.
Alderwoman Peg Ryan said she felt the city should explore looking into contracting such a service.
Alderman Todd Pechota wasn’t quite as sure, saying he didn’t like the word “investigate” and said it could bring about privacy issues.
“I will not support anything I feel will not support someone’s rights,” he said.
Ryan said she didn’t feel it was something the city should put in the ordinance right now, but said she believed it is worth exploring because there are likely people running vacation rentals outside the scope of city ordinances.
“The real crux of the issue is we are saying what is here now is enough,” alderwoman Jeannie Fischer said.
Raphael Murillo, who was in the audience, said he felt grandfathering in the current rentals is unfair, because those owners “continue to have income that is protected as a privilege to them.”
He said he also felt a distinction should be made between hosted rentals and unhosted rentals, saying a hosted rental, where someone lives and only rents out a room, mitigates the negative impacts of a rental.
“Someone is a permanent resident there. They can maintain a room, make sure there is no loud noise or trash, or parking in the wrong areas,” he said. “It goes a long way to protecting property rights this ordinance curtails for good reason.”
Murillo said he has experience in dealing with these type of ordinances from a previous residence in another state, and offered to help if the city were interested.
Tim Reindl was in the audience and said the city is in a hard place as far as managing the rentals, saying whoever owns the property has the right to quiet enjoyment, and investigating what is going on  in a home is a violation of those rights.
He wondered how many complaints there have been about vacation rentals as compared to other complaints, such as barking dogs.
“You’re in a tough position,” he said, adding if the city doesn’t want to deal with vacation rentals it may be better to get rid of them altogether.
The amended ordinance passed, with alderwoman Nina Nielsen casting the lone vote against the amendment.

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