Amid concerns about short-term rentals and home shares that have been listed on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO infiltrating neighborhoods, the City of Stillwater is developing an ordinance to address what city leaders call commercial use of residential properties.
Ordinance 3435 sets requirements for people who want to rent rooms in residential property for less than 30 days at a time. It’s considered a home share if the person offering the rental also lives in the property and it’s considered a short-term rental if the person doesn’t reside there.
Either way, the City of Stillwater is asking people to apply for a scaled-down version of a Special Use Permit that would require notifying neighbors within 300 feet of the intended commercial use. Unlike full SUPs that deal with projects that have yet to be built, it would not require a drainage study or renderings.
“(It wouldn’t require) the many large and expensive items you’ll find in the typical SUP,” Assistant City Manager Paula Dennison said. “...The house is already there.”
Residents who have rentals on home sharing platforms appeared to defend themselves against concerns that allowing short-term rental of residential property could lead to problems like poor upkeep, traffic, noise and excessive vehicles and could encourage party houses.
Rental operators Barb Osteen and Jim Bernard both assured the council that properties that aren’t clean and in good condition or that get bad reviews don’t get rented.
Bernard said he’s in the hotel business and also operates a short-term rental in Stillwater, as well as another one in Santa Fe.
He encouraged the city to put reasonable restrictions in place, similar to the City of Santa Fe’s ban on more than two rentals in a row, but leave the permitting process as simple as possible.
Homeowners Diane Graalman and Shirley Weeks both live near Oklahoma State University and have seen rental units move into formerly owner-occupied homes. Weeks said she lives in one of only two owner-occupied homes on University Circle.
They expressed concerns about the number of people who might be allowed to stay in a house at one time.
Graalman wants to be sure even short-term rentals are required to meet the standards set forth in the Westwood Conservation Overlay District that in most cases prohibit renting to more than three unrelated people. Gary Clark, another Westwood resident, echoed those concerns.
Weeks asked the council to consider increasing the permit fee from the proposed $10, saying that’s hardly enough to even buy a hamburger.
She told the council its special focus should always be on protecting neighborhoods and she asked for the councilors for help for neighborhoods to survive, “so the central core won’t be a slum.”
The council advanced the ordinance on first reading but wants to consider amended language at the second hearing that increase the permit fee, provide more specific requirements for parking and potentially remove the requirement for a public hearing on each rental SUP request, unless the property is located in a conservation overlay district.
City Attorney John Dorman said they could advance the ordinance by title only, then make changes and even have additional speakers at the next reading.
Dorman said it’s important to get something on the books as soon as possible because the city’s new room tax collection ordinance for short-term rentals and home shares takes effect July 1. The city won’t be able to grant any permits until rentals are allowed under the zoning code.