Michael MacMann, a member of the Columbia Planning & Zoning Commission, estimates that Columbia has 600 short-term rental units, which are the types of rentals found on websites like Airbnb.
The Columbia City Council discussed possible regulation of these rentals at a short meeting Monday, as well as a report on sidewalk cafes.
The regulations are mostly aimed at rentals that aren’t hosted by a property owner, according to a council memo. When the owner of an online rental doesn’t live at the rental property, the owner would need approval from the city in order to rent it out. The approval would come through conditional use permits, which are given out on a case-by-case basis.
Other proposed regulations include an occupancy limit, a limit on the number of short-term rentals allowed in lots zoned for multifamily housing and lodging taxes for short-term rentals.
These proposed regulations are not set in stone. In fact, the council is seeking more input from the community. Residents will be allowed to speak at the Jan. 6 council work session, and further discussion will be allowed at the Jan. 21 City Council meeting. After hearing comments from the public, the council plans to vote on the ordinances at the first council meeting in February.
At Monday’s meeting, some residents raised concerns about short-term rentals harming the quality of neighborhoods in the city. The council also heard suggestions from residents, including that the city limit the number of short-term rentals in a particular area or ward.
MacMann cautioned the council against acting too quickly. He also told the council that enforcing these ordinances will be very difficult.
“Enforcement is impossible,” MacMann said.
After discussing the rentals, the council heard a report about sidewalk cafes. These are the outdoor seating areas placed on sidewalks, and they arecommonly found downtown.
The council was looking into sidewalk cafes with permanent fixtures such as landscaping and walls. The report cited Glenn’s Cafe, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and Room 38 as examples that have these kinds outdoor seating. Sidewalk cafes with permanent fixtures require special permits to construct, and these permits can be revoked with good reason and sufficient warning.
“The reason for the report is these were frequently named examples during the process of amending the sidewalk cafe ordinance,” said Tim Teddy, director of Community Development for the city.
The council was particularly concerned with Room 38’s outdoor seating area, which serves as a three-season room. They worried that the area harms accessibility for pedestrians on the sidewalk. The council referred the issue to the Disabilities Commission and the Bicycle/Pedestrian Commission.
Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.