Planning commission delays Airbnb ordinance vote

City officials have delayed a key vote necessary to finalize a proposed ordinance that would regulate Airbnbs in Winters.
Graphic: Winters Express
Graphic: Winters Express

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short-term vacation rentals operating in Winters. For months, members of the Winters Planning Commission and other city leaders have pushed for a vote on the measure, citing a sense of urgency inspired by tales of problems with certain Airbnb units that get louder and rowdier during the summer. Commissioners were ready to vote on the measure in April, but a lack of public notice in the newspaper — for reasons that are still unclear; the city says it emailed the notice, but the newspaper says it never received it — delayed what was seen as a critical moment in the process of formalizing the ordinance. Whatever urgency there was before, that tone was nowhere to be found at last Tuesday’s meeting when commissioners admitted there was still more work to be done. That admission came after an increase in public input at the April meeting which spurred a closer examination of the ordinance. City officials credited resident Sandy Vickrey for going over the proposal with a fine tooth comb, pulling apart pieces of the proposal that didn’t make sense, identifying redundancies in other areas and working with contract city planner Dave Dowswell to fine tune the measure. “She took very constructive steps to improve the ordinance that’s before us,” Commission Chair Paul Myer said. Core features of the ordinance have survived numerous meetings and efforts to re-tool the measure: If enacted, Airbnb operators and other short-term rental businesses would be divided into two categories — hosted and non-hosted, with the key difference being whether a property owner regularly lives at a home. Anyone wishing to list their home on Airbnb or any number of competing websites would be required to obtain a business license and a conditional use license. Non-hosted units would have the added hurdle of being cleared by the planning commission itself, a body whose members have sometimes complained about these short-term rentals operating in their neighborhoods. On Tuesday, Myer took exception to a preview article published by the Express online that said complaints about short-term rentals had “come from planning commissioners themselves” at prior meetings. He painted himself as a conduit of information when it came to concerns about Airbnbs, which he said came from others in the city approaching him as an official with their complaints. “My observations were from my neighbors coming up to me as a planning commissioner,” Myer said. “They were not just me complaining about noise over my back fence.” Myer said in the last three weeks another complaint about an Airbnb home operating in his neighborhood was lodged after a busload of noisy construction workers stayed at the house. He said a resident expressed concern about notifying the police because he was afraid of retribution. In the past, Myer and others have said the police were called numerous time to that and other homes, but data collected by the Express from the Winters Police Department showed less than a half-dozen calls for service were executed on suspected short-term rentals last year. Speaking during time reserved for public comment, property owner Benjamin Dippel said he believed his home was the one being complained about in the recent instance. “When I spoke to [the complaining resident] about the incident, he asked the people several times to be quiet,” Dippel said. “The idea of calling the police because there’d be a retaliation…I don’t believe in a police report it mentions who called it in, I think you can call it in without mentioning your name, so that fact pattern doesn’t seem to hold up, and I spoke to the other neighbors and they said they don’t seem to have an issue.” Earlier in the month, Dippel expressed concern about the ordinance during a city council meeting, saying he felt it held property owners who listed their homes on Airbnb and other sites to a much higher standard than landlords who own and manage apartment buildings in town. At the council meeting, he welcomed an opportunity to meet with city leaders about the ordinance; last week, he complained that meeting never materialized. Commissioners granted Dippel and other community stakeholders an extended length of time to meet with city officials about the ordinance by delaying a vote to the commission meeting expected to be held later this month.]]>

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