By Stephanie Malench
The Collinsville City Council met on April 12 in the council chambers with the majority of the meeting devoted to more discussion on changes to the bed and breakfast ordinance and short term rentals.
Senior Planner Andi Yancey and Associate Planner Caitlin Rice facilitated the discussion among council members, Mayor John Miller, and City Manager Mitch Bair around three broad areas: strengthen bed and breakfast requirements; short term rental regulation and permits within certain zoning districts; and special use permit processes.
Councilman Jeff Stehman wants both bed and breakfasts and short-term rentals to be permitted with specific standards for both, including a restriction of short-term rentals to commercial districts.
Councilman David Jerome said he agreed with everything that Stehman said, adding that there is no way to guarantee the safety of Bed and Breakfasts since residential structures are only inspected upon change of ownership or sale of the home.
Jerome is also concerned about the level of insurance the owner would need. He cited as an example from his law firm an Uber driver did not have enough insurance to cover the rider and now the injured rider is having to sue for hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills.
Finally, Jerome believes short term rentals and Airbnbs take away from the hotels. Councilman Tony Hausmann asked how the taxes are regulated on Airbnbs and short-term rentals.
Bair responded saying it is hard to monitor if they are being collected and who is collecting them. He also stressed that the taxes are not the concern with the businesses, but keeping the integrity of the residential neighborhoods. However, Bair said if it wasn’t for the successful hotel/motel tax, the city would not have been able to take over the parks without raising taxes on residents.
Councilwoman Donna Green echoed Bair, adding that the short-term rentals would change the landscape of the community if scattered throughout the city. She said the goal of the tightened ordinance is to preserve neighborhoods, adding that 42% of the residential properties in the city are rental properties, a much higher percentage than surrounding communities. “We want to bring back the pride that comes with owning property in the city”, Green explained.
Miller responded that just as Jerome’s concerns come from a legal perspective, he has concerns stemming from his background in safety. He said that when you buy a house you give up the right to choose who lives next to you, but with the short-term rentals you don’t know the background of the constantly changing guests.
Miller understands the popularity of bed and breakfasts and short-term rentals in college communities or tourist towns, but they are not a good fit for a small town like Collinsville. He also suggested the city staff come up with a special permit process which addresses more frequent inspections.
Bair added that short-term rentals are more detrimental to the fabric of a neighborhood than long-term rentals.
Yancey and Rice will continue to work with other city staff members to make the changes and bring a draft to a later city council meeting.
After the discussion, two Collinsville residents who operate short-term rentals in the city spoke during public comment. Cara McCulley has run an Airbnb out of the home she lies in on St. Louis Rd. She informed the council that she was told there were no ordinances restricting her from having an Airbnb in her home and checks in annually to make sure she is still in compliance. McCulley said she also collects the taxes and pays income taxes on the money she makes. The majority of her four minutes was used giving examples of the type of guests that stay in her home, many of whom are medical professionals or those working/visiting Scott Air Force Base.
Shannon Connor, a 4th generation business owner in Collinsville, also gave examples of the types of guests who stay at her short-term rental, also located on St. Louis Rd. Connor said she has had no negative experiences on her property, with cameras at the back door and fenced in parking so no one in the neighborhood knows who is coming and going.
Four ordinances were passed during the New Business part of the meeting. The first was a waiver of $1,769.53 for the construction of a single-family home by Habitat For Humanity at 501 Forest Dr.
The second awarded a bid and authorized a contract with Kohnen Concrete Products, Inc. in the amount of $22,740 out of TIF 4 monies as part of the St. Louis Rd. Stormwater Project. The project includes 14 stormwater structures and 1700 linear feet of sewer pipes beginning at the intersection of St. Louis Rd and Maple St. and ending at an existing inlet within an easement on Walt St.
Next was an ordinance approving the purchase of three trucks from Morrow Brothers Ford in the amount of $136,570 for the parks department. The utility truck will replace the van the city inherited from CARD to transport supplies.
Finally, the Enterprise Zone was expanded to include the properties surrounding Mall St. and Bellevue Dr. The zone is still under the 15 square mile statutory limit.
The next meeting will be May 10 at City Hall.