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Edgewood Decides to Maintain Ban on Short-Term, Airbnb Rentals

Edgewood city council decided last week against amending its zoning ordinance, and maintaining its ban on short-term rentals, made popular by the online site Airbnb.

The Edgewood city building was filled with concerned residents, many of whom were eager to speak one way or the other on the issue.

Mayor John Link asked city attorney Frank Wichmann and City Administrator Brian Dehner to present their findings on the issue, particularly as it relates to a property on Marie Lane where an Airbnb operates.

"As the mayor indicated, we didn't know till we reviewed the concept of short-term rentals, it is a very controversial subject, not only in this area, but nationwide," Wichmann said. "Very few issues in regards to short-term rentals being authorized or prohibited are mainly now in the discussion about city government; very few issues along those lines have gotten into the judicial system, so I can't say we don't have any court rulings on them, but to date I haven't been able to get my hands on any.  

"Given that, I went back and reviewed the provisions of the Edgewood zoning ordinance, and bottom line is that I have come to the conclusion that the zoning of the property at 369 Marie Lane precludes short-term rentals."

"If a use is not permitted in a zone, it is prohibited, and that's where we get into the zoning for the property on Marie Lane," Wichmann continued. "It is zoned as a residential one (R1) zone, called a single-family residential dwelling. That's the permitted use. The operative word, in my opinion, has come to be the word residential. Residential is derived from the term reside, and reside is defined to mean living in for a considerable, emphasizing the word considerable, time. In my opinion, a short-term rental is not a considerable time, so it does not come within the definition of a permitted use, and therefore is prohibited."

Council was told that if it took no action, short-term rentals would continue to be banned. If council wanted to change that, the zoning ordinance would have to be amended.

Council decided to let the ban on short-term rentals stand.  

There was a round of applause from the audience, but not everyone was happy.

Dave Zimmer, who lives in Hebron, and whose family owns the property on Marie Lane, stood up to speak.

"Had we known, we would not have started this brouhaha," he said. "But just  for clarity, Mr Wichmann, is rental property permitted in R-1?"

"A long term rental? Yes," said Wichmann.

"Is it defined as long-term or short-term?"

"No, sir."

"And is small home-owned businesses allowed in R-1?"

"They are, if they meet the conditions in the home occupation," Wichmann said. He added that the conditions are pretty stringent, but the one that he thought would be a problem is that no more than 25 percent of the dwelling can be used as a business.  

Dehner said there is also a restriction that the business owner has to live there. Zimmer said he would assume the occupant would also have to have an occupancy license, and Dehner confirmed that.

Zimmer said that his family applied for an occupational license with the rental property on Marie, but doesn't know whether it was granted yet. 

"The short-term, long-term, that's a ball game we certainly didn't start, but I appreciate the candor with which you guys have been dealing with," Zimmer said.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor