Council passes first reading of lodging house regulations
Members of the Fairfield City Council along with community members heard the first reading of a proposed short-term rental ordinance Monday night.
“The reading went as proposed by the [Airbnb] task force,” said Fairfield city administrator Mike Harmon during an interview today.
According to the ordinance, residential homes in R2, R3 and V1 are all allowable areas for short-term rentals. However, R1 neighborhoods won’t qualify to offer short-term rentals including Airbnb or vacation home rentals.
“They are exclusively single family residential areas restricted to no more than a single family dwelling built on a particular lot,” said Councilor Darin Hamilton about why R1 areas would not be permitted to offer short-term rentals.”
Hamilton said the homes in those areas are geared more toward families, not people renting a room or whole house.
“I think that’s why the committee felt they would want to exclude R1,” he said.
In addition to specifying areas where the service could be offered, the ordinance also established certain criteria that those looking to run a short-term rental must abide, and those include safety inspections to ensure a given property is up to code, property maintenance and even off street parking.
“You want people coming into our community to stay in a safe place,” Harmon said.
Short-term rental operators would also need to include hotel/motel tax in their charges to customers.
“It’s my understanding that once we adopt the ordinance that hotel/motel tax would be sent to the state,” Harmon said, adding that a portion of those taxes would return to the city.
“This is something new to communities, and I’m pleased that we are establishing a clear set of guidelines that removes the subjectivity of whether or not a property can be a short term rental within the city limits of Fairfield,” Harmon said of the ordinance.
“I think it’s pretty fair; there needs to be some sort of regulation as there is with regular bed and breakfasts. With the Airbnb phenomenon going on right now, I can see people wanting to do that with their homes,” Hamilton said, adding that personally he wouldn’t want to see homes in Fairfield used exclusively for short-term rentals.
“I would rather it be an owner occupied residence where either a room or basement or an entire residence if it’s just that people are going to be out for a time. I’ve heard that you can trade residences with someone else. This is also an opportunity to increase our hotel motel tax, and this seems to be where most communities are leaning toward.”
Hamilton said he didn’t see a problem with short-term rental use during large events, such as FAIRfest, but if short-term rentals were more popular than hotels for short one to two day stays, that could become problematic.
“For someone staying one or two nights and not using one of the motels in town, then there is a loss in revenue when that is experienced,” he said.
Harmon said those interested in offering short-term rentals would need to obtain a permit from the Board of Adjustments.
“They will have to show the board that they have met the criteria outlined within the ordinance,” Harmon said. “There will be two more [ordinance] readings, and two more chances for public input.”
In other news, the City Streets department plans to change up the routes for snow removal.
“We will tweak how we plow snow and focus on the higher traffic areas and then we’ll move into the collector streets away from the major arterial streets,” Harmon said.
The council will hear the second reading of the proposed outdoor dining ordinance Nov. 28 during the upcoming city council meeting.
Hamilton said the property committee made some revisions to the ordinance, and the committee plans to ask the board to have the ordinance withdrawn to combine two additional changes.
Hamilton said the wording about cleaning tables needed to be changed, as well as the hours for serving alcohol.
“The wording seemed rather strong about cleaning tables — it needs to be softened,” he said. “The hours for serving alcohol will be changed to 11 a.m. instead of 5 p.m., that way, if you want a glass of wine with your lunch, you can have it in the outdoor dining area.”
The first reading of the amended ordinance is Dec. 19 at the city council meeting.
Hamilton said because it’s dealing with alcohol, it would likely go through all three readings so that the public could provide input.