The Bonne Terre City Council discussed regulating short-term home rentals in the city during last Monday night’s monthly meeting. Aldermen also turned down two requests made of the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee, and they heard an anecdote about how the late Patrolman Lane Burns’ memory was recently observed by a baseball team from Carthage.
The baseball team had been playing in the 10u MABA Baseball Tournament which brought a small mob of visitors to town, many of whom stayed in area hotels, but there was quite a bit of interest from the players’ parents in vacation rentals, it was said. Some rentals are currently operating in town, some are operating outside the city limits. There are independently-owned, commercial bed-and-breakfasts, as well.
After some discussion at the end of the meeting, aldermen asked City Attorney Seth Pegram to look into what it would take to regulate residential bed-and-breakfast establishments in city limits, since several residents have expressed an interest in getting into the vacation-rental-by-owner game.
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In fact, Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) is one of the largest companies that currently allow residents to post their properties online for rent. VRBO generally differs from another online, independent rental platform, Airbnb, in that Airbnb also includes renting out space in private homes, say, a room in someone’s house, or their basement. VRBO tends to lean toward whole rental units, say, an entire condo, apartment or house.
City Administrator Shawn Kay pointed out Parks Director/Building Inspector Kenny Farkas brought up the idea, and Farkas happens to own a property in Hermann that he rents to out-of-towners.
Farkas said he’s been approached by several residents interested in joining the residential home-rental game, but he said in his experience, if the practice isn’t regulated, it could quickly spiral out of control.
“Without regulations, you could have eight people in one room which might constitute a fire hazard, there might be out-of-town parties that get a little too wild,” he said. “There just has to be regulations to put an Airbnb in town.
“I'm very familiar with them, I get inspected once a year in the city of Herman from the city inspector. He tells me what I need to do to comply with the city and then also the city also charges me every quarter, I have to pay taxes on the sales of my Airbnb. So, however many times it rents, I have to pay a percentage of the rentals that I have with the B&B to the city’s department.”
Pegram said he’s already done a bit of checking, and the considerations are numerous, in terms of crafting policy and regulations, enforcement and taxation. He said there are different levels of rental, such as hotels vs. B&Bs vs. short-term rentals.
“The taxation issues are different. Permits are different. All of them are different and that's where if, if the city wants to get into looking at regulating Airbnbs you're going to be looking at the same thing, because they are no longer just rental properties that are not taxed at hotel tax rates. They are hotel tax rates,” he said. “You're gonna look at that, you're gonna look at licensing, you're gonna look at the tax collection, you're gonna look at their insurance requirements.” He said number of cars parked, number of guests allowed, and other aspects of vacation rental will need to be taken into account, as well.
Farkas said, while hotels and motels are still in demand, travelers are looking for more personalized experiences in a relaxed, homey atmosphere or a unique property, so the increase in interest is more than likely an inevitability for Bonne Terre, and last weekend’s baseball tournament seemed to underscore the need for urgency in terms of regulating private rentals.
Earlier in the meeting, Farkas referred to a touching moment at the tournament when the baseball team from Carthage asked for a moment of silence before play to remember Patrolman Lane Burns, who hailed from their town but grew up, moved to the Parkland, attended law enforcement academy, became an officer and was gunned down in the line of duty for Bonne Terre Police Department in March. The team also requested a photo with Bonne Terre police, who were happy to comply.
In other action, the aldermen:
- Turned down a request from Garrett DeBlois to convert the house at 207 Manor St. to a duplex.
- Turned down a request from JP Construction Development to finish their project at 901 Grove St.
- Reassigned aldermen to city committees: Bruce Pratte, Planning & Zoning; Ryan McClure, Parks & Recreation; Julie Williams Hawn, Senior Center; Andrea Richardson, Library.
- Discussed a city-wide messaging system. Police Lt. Bill Stegall said he would look into the possibilities, and is aware the county might offer resources.
- Approved a resolution of support for School Street and Missouri Highway 47 Pedestrian Facility Project, which would involve applying for grants that would bring better lighting and sidewalks that were ADA-compliant to downtown Bonne Terre.
- Approved liquor licenses.
- Approved paying a share of the county’s cost for new aerial photography.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or email@example.com.