The Whispering Pines Village Council will gauge residents’ feelings toward short-term rentals at the top of a slate of public hearings it has set for its August meeting.
During its regular meeting on Wednesday, the council reviewed a policy recommended by Whispering Pines’ planning and zoning board that would prohibit village residents from renting out their entire home on a short-term basis, defined as less than 30 days.
If adopted, the proposed ordinance would also regulate the short-term rental of individual bedrooms — particularly through booking websites like Airbnb and VRBO.
Mayor Alexa Roberts said that the issue came up after a home in Whispering Pines was purchased specifically as a short-term rental property.
“There were people who were concerned about these whole-house rentals as somebody who has no ties to the village,” she said. “It’s not somebody who lives here and rents out a room, it’s not somebody who was living here and left for a few months, it’s somebody who bought the house just to be a vacation rental.”
Next month, the village council will open the floor to input on establishing an annual “homestay permit” for homeowners who earn money by renting out individual rooms in their homes for up to 30 days. The proposal prohibits property owners from sanctioning events like weddings and receptions in connection with short-term guests.
Council members are also proposing that homeowners obtain a $500,000 liability insurance policy to qualify for that permit.
Council member Bob Zschoche voted against setting the public hearing and argued against the village council adopting any prohibition or regulation of short-term rentals at this point.
“What is the problem in the village that we’re trying to address? We should have ordinances that regulate potential problems. I don’t think we even have a potential problem,” said Zschoche. “I have yet to have a resident come to me and say: ‘I think we ought to regulate short-term rentals.’”
The recommendation came to the village council on a 2-1 vote from the planning board. Planning board members Dean Kalles and Mike Boyle both recused themselves from that vote due to operating short-term rentals themselves.
“There are so few in the village that I don’t even know why we’re doing this,” Kalles told the village council members. “It seems to me that we’re rushing this, during the COVID incident, calling public hearings. You’re not going to get the public here.”
Roberts said that she is generally not in favor of regulating short-term rentals either, but that given the 20 responses to the village’s remotely held public budget hearing in May she anticipates hearing from a broad swath of village residents on the subject. Council members also agreed that they won’t vote on the matter the same day as the public hearing.
“The fact that we’re looking at it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve made a decision,” she said. “What we’re going to do is call for the public hearing. At that point we have more time to consider, make revisions, make changes and decide what we’re going to do.”
Council members are also set to receive opinions from residents next month on a proposal to relax the village’s restriction on fence height. The planning and zoning board has unanimously recommended that the 48-inch standard for fence height in Whispering Pines’ residential agricultural zoning district be changed to 72 inches.
Linda Christopher, Whispering Pines’ zoning administrator, said she’s fielded calls from more than a dozen residents seeking to have the height restrictions changed. Currently, the village’s ordinances allow for a case-by-case exemption where a higher fence may be needed to contain an individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Under that exemption, fences up to five feet are allowed.
Council member Pam Harris said that changing the maximum allowed fence height in the village might have implications for other guidelines, though.
“Having a six foot fence on a golf course, my personal thought is that I would like at least a 30 foot setback,” she said.
Another pair of public hearings is also scheduled for the village council’s August meeting. Council members will hear public input on a proposal lifting many of the village’s limitations on signs in residential areas in accordance with a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and on a proposal to close a right-of-way off of New Day Way in the Foxcroft neighborhood.
The village council’s next regular meeting is scheduled Aug. 12 at 6 p.m.