Hudson considering regulation of short-term rental properties

Phil Keren
Akron Beacon Journal
Hudson city leaders are looking at regulating short-term rental properties such as Airbnbs and VRBOs.

HUDSON — City leaders are trying to determine how best to regulate short-term rental properties after some large house parties created disruption in a neighborhood.

City Council had a workshop Thursday to address short-term rentals like Airbnbs and VRBOs after many residents voiced concerns about an Oct. 10 party at a home on Windsor Road that was being used as a short-term rental. 

Police estimated that as many as 400 people attended the Oct. 10 party, with cars parked all over the neighborhood. Officers reported cars were blocking driveways, mailboxes and intersections, and added they responded to reports of a fight, an assault and a couple of car crashes related to the party. 

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Diane Kindt lives near the site of the Windsor Road party and said the gathering was "the most frightening thing I've ever seen," and added residents were "scared for their lives."

Linda O'Grady, who lives next door to the site of that party, noted it was the "third or fourth large party" that happened at that site. She added there were car crashes, fist fights and people running through neighbors' yards at late hours.

At the conclusion of the 90-minute meeting Thursday, City Manager Jane Howington told council her staff would return to City Council on Nov. 24 with an action plan on regulating short-term rentals.

Howington said it would take at least six months to address  short-term rentals by changing the city zoning code. Licensing short-term rentals and establishing penalties could be implemented by council more quickly.

"We're initially feeling that the licensing and the higher fines … would be a more expedient way to go," said Howington.

Council on Tuesday gave first reading to impose a 180-day temporary moratorium prohibiting the operation of short-term (less than 30 days) residential rentals within the city. The potential moratorium is being considered to buy some time for council to put together a long-term solution, Howington said.

Council member Skylar Sutton (Ward 3) noted the city zoning code defines a bed and breakfast operation, and a lodging setup, but short-term rentals like VRBOs and Airbnbs do not fit either definition.

"We really don't have anything outlined in the code [for such properties] … and so it's sort of operating in a gray zone," said Sutton.

He said he wanted to find a solution that balances everyone's property rights and deters houses from being a "party rental."

Several residents expressed varying opinions on the issues. Some residents said they wanted to see more regulations, while owners of Airbnbs spoke against a moratorium and encouraged council to steer clear of too much regulation.

John Cook said he felt short-term rentals have the "potential to change the character" of residential neighborhoods. He noted he has an Airbnb next door to him and said renters don't have the same vested interest in the community that an owner does.

Cook added he was concerned short-term rental properties would negatively affect property values and potentially pose a security risk to a neighborhood. He said he felt Airbnbs should only be allowed in commercial or multi-family zoning districts.

Mary Donatelli, who owns an Airbnb in the city's downtown, observed, "the parties are the problem," and said she wants city leaders to find "a reasonable solution" to that issue. 

"That solution does not necessitate the government taking away our ability to host guests in our community," said Donatelli.

She said she rents out her home for cases such as adult children coming to the city to visit their parents or grandparents.

"A moratorium [on short-term rentals] would make my 2020 even more difficult," said Donatelli, who urged council to "use its power selectively."

Risa Sheeler, who has rented out a duplex in Hudson for three decades, said she also felt that officials had to figure out how to deal with large parties and examine what laws are already in place to address those issues.

"Please don't overregulate and don't rush this through," said Sheeler. "Let everybody be heard."

O'Grady said she's "not opposed to Airbnbs" but thinks strong regulation is needed. She added that the neighboring Airbnb is "like having a hotel in your neighborhood…you've got strangers coming through week after week after week."

Doug Hardtmayer, who owns a bed and breakfast in the city with his wife, Ren, said he wants Airbnbs subjected to the same regulations that bed and breakfasts must meet. As examples, he said his business must provide a parking space for each room they rent out, as well as meet fencing requirements and carry added insurance.

"We want a level playing field," Hardtmayer said.

The city zoning code requires the operator of a bed and breakfast to live either on the premises or next door, Sutton said.

Community Development Director Greg Hannan said bed and breakfasts are allowed as a conditional use in every city zoning district. Council member Hal DeSaussure (at-large) said a conditional use must be applied for and approved by the planning commission, which can impose restrictions.

DeSaussure said if the owner-on-site requirement were eliminated, it would mean that short-term rentals would have to meet the same requirements as bed and breakfasts. He said he believed putting short-term rentals under the same umbrella as bed and breakfasts could give the city a tool to crack down on bad actors. 

"If you have a bad apple …then I would imagine that there's a process under which you can say that use is getting pulled," DeSaussure said.

Sutton noted the city has penalties for properties that do not go through the approval process to operate as a conditional use. That process would include allowing the public to weigh in about having a short-term rental property in their neighborhood.

Rolf Oscarrson owns long-term and short-term rental properties and said a moratorium would be "financially crippling." For instances such as the large party, he believes a solution is to penalize the renter and the owner who rented it out.

Police Chief Perry Tabak said his department is working with other departments to set up a rapid response team that would be trained to respond to calls about large gatherings and crowd control issues.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.