CALL FOR ACTION SEPTEMBER 10TH 2019
City Council has two major topics on their agenda tonight that our REALTOR community should be activly engaging in.
The first item is below:
PLANNING & HOUSING: 17.
Staff Report on Vacation Lodging Standards
On August 27th City Council reviewed options for adding Vacation Lodging (the use of a
dwelling solely for transient lodging and not as a household use) as a principle use to the draft
Guest Lodging Ordinances that would amend the Ames Municipal Code Chapter 29 Zoning
Ordinance, Chapter 13 Rental Code, and create a new Chapter 35 for Guest Lodging
Licensing. City Council directed staff to modify the draft ordinances to allow for Vacation
Lodging as a principle use, but to apply a minimum of a 1,000 foot buffer between licensed
properties in specific single-family zoning districts. Additionally, City Council directed staff to
continue the public hearing for amending the Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 29) and consideration
of ordinances amending Chapter 13 and 35 to September 10th to allow for staff to modify the
standards per City Council direction. Due to the need for further direction on the proposed
standards, the full draft ordinances are not ready for approval.
Staff has drafted amendments to Chapter 29 that clarify the categories of Guest Lodging and
how to permit vacation rentals with Special Use Permits for one and two-family dwellings and
to exempt apartments from a Special Use Permit. The most notable zoning and use issue from
Council’s prior direction is how to address Village and PRD zoning districts as they have a
unique mix of uses. Apartments in Village and PRD will now be treated the same as higher
density areas and the other dwelling types will still require Special Use Permits. RLP
(Residential Low Park) zoning for mobile home parks also excludes Vacation Lodging due to
unique conditions of the sites, but allows for the home share options. A working draft of the
zoning use tables is included as informational item to this report.
The primary issue for Council consideration with this report is the proposed 1,000 foot buffer
standard that will be included in Chapter 35 (the new Guest Licensing chapter) and not in the
Chapter 29. Staff desires clarification on how to apply the 1,000 foot buffer is necessary
to address the process of accepting and approving applications. Staff believes from
comments by interested parties that there are going to be multiple applications for Vacation
Lodging at the initial date of application that would be within 1,000 feet of each other. This is
likely the case in areas around campus and north of Downtown where there have been higher
number of Airbnb types of activities in the past.
The proposed general process for licensing a one or two family dwelling within the A, R-L, FSRL, RM-O-SFC, UCRM, F-VR, and F-PRD would include the following steps.
- Register a property as a rental property with the City and received a preliminary
- Apply for a Special Use Permit for ZBA approval of Vacation Lodging
- Apply for a Guest Lodging license subsequent to ZBA approval operating consistent
with the Letter of Compliance standards of the Rental Code, including the follow
- 1,000 foot separation requirement from any one or two family dwelling property
as calculated by City of Ames with its Geographic Information System (GIS)
within the specified zoning districts, but not from a licensed Vacation Lodging use
in a commercial or higher density zoning district.
- In the event an applicant does not complete the Rental Code licensing processing
or operates inconsistent with the Rental Code standards the Guest Lodging
license can be suspended or revoked.
- Maintain ownership during licensure. A license is not transferrable to a new owner, the
new owner must seek approval of a new license.
- Establish a requirement that at the time of renewal, a property owner must demonstrate
that they did in fact use the property as a Vacation Rental for a majority of the occupied
days during the license period. If not, they would need to reapply for licensure.
REVIEW OF SIMULTANEOUS APPLICATIONS:
The key consideration for the proposed 1,000-foot buffer requirement is how to apply it
when there could be multiple property owners able to file the application at the same
time. Normally, the first complete application submitted would be entitled to complete the
process prior to consideration of another competing application. To address the possibility of
essentially simultaneous applications, staff has created three approaches for City Council to
- Option 1: Date of Complete Application
The default option, absent any other guidance, would be a “first come first
served” approach. Once an applicant has registered the property and received
approval by the Zoning Board of Adjustment they can proceed to apply for the Guest
Lodging License. The License application would be processed by Administrative
Services staff by entering it into our permit software system and receiving payment. This
process includes a time stamp and would establish the order for review. It is also likely
that this option can implemented through the online portal operated by the
Inspections Division so there is no a question of who would be in line first to be
processed by a Clerk. This option requires no consideration by staff of the merits or
intent of the property owner on obtaining a license compared to any other applicant, only
its timeliness. This option would also ensure the 1,000-foot separation standard is
applied consistently to all properties.
- Option 2: Exemption for Initial Application Period
This option is designed to allow an exemption, for a short initial application
period, from the 1,000-foot separation standard. In this situation, staff would propose
that only properties that already have a Rental Code Letter of Compliance prior to
October 1, 2019, not just in process of registering their property, would be exempt from
the 1000-foot separation standard for a Guest Lodging License. They would still be
subject to the ZBA review and approval of a Special Use Permit prior to applying for a
Guest Lodging License. This option could be accomplished by establishing a limited
window to apply Guest Lodging licenses without setting a 1,000-foot buffer and then
establish a later date for which all applications are subject to the buffer requirement.
A narrow window would be appropriate for this consideration to ensure only those
property owners that are truly interested in operating such a use proceed through the
process. This option limits the impacts of converting non-rental properties to guest
lodging by having a prerequisite of having a current LOC, but would likely allow for
substantially more guest lodging establishments overall than the first option.
- Option 3: Random Selection for Initial Applications
This option would apply the 1,000-foot separation standard to all applications, but
establish a random order for processing applications during an initial application
period to establish priority, rather than “first come first served”. This option would
include a two-week window to accept applications, but no processing of the applications
would occur until the two-week period has expired. Staff would randomly select the
applications and establish an order for their review and work down the list to address
potential separation conflicts. This option would be similar to the results of the first
option, but allows for a period to collect applications and then impartially consider the
requests in a random order.
In order to finalize the wording for a Guest Lodging licensing ordinance, Staff requests
direction regarding one of the options cites above. All three options are workable, but yield
slightly different results within the City Council direction of having a 1,000-foot separation
standard for one and two family homes in specific zoning districts. In the event there is no
direction to proceed differently, Option 1 would be the default approach added to a draft
ordinance for future consideration by the City Council.
Due to timeliness of the combined changes for Chapter 29, 13, and 35, staff recommends
not holding a public hearing on September 10th and allow staff to re-notice for a future
date when complete ordinances have been drafted.
The second issue is within the item below
a. First passage of ordinance amending Chapter 13 to add rent abatement as an enforcement
tool, to add one year Letter of Compliance prohibition as an enforcement tool, and to freeze
the bedroom counts for all properties in the Near Campus Neighborhoods to what would
have been allowed on January 1, 2018