Renting rooms

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JEFFERSON CITY - The city is considering allowing residents to rent out rooms in their houses. Currently, the city does not allow these short-term rentals.

Planning staff presented the proposal to the administration committee Wednesday. 

Ryan Moehlman, the city attorney, said the current zoning code tries to separate areas for residential use and commercial use. He said short-term rentals fall into the category of being a bed and breakfast or a hotel. 

Moehlman said it is important to protect residential districts and put appropriate conditions on commercial uses so it "doesn't disturb the overall residential feel and character of the neighborhood." 

He said the administration committee of the city council asked for some ideas on how to address short-term rentals. With the growth in short-term rental websites like Airbnb and Craigslist, he said the city should look into this specific part of the current zoning code. 

"So it's a phenomenon that's growing, and so the city has to make a determination, do we want to ignore it? Do we want to embrace it?" Moehlman said. 

Currently, he said Airbnb is only legal in non-residential areas, if the host complies with zoning ordinances and city code. There were approximately 14 Airbnb listings online in Jefferson City as of Thursday.

He said the administration committee has given an indication that it wants to embrace allowing short-term rentals, but to "do it in a reasonable way that works for both the neighbors and the people that want to rent out their homes." 

Moehlman said the city sent out letters to people renting out their houses that it is not consistent with the city code. The city asked those people to stop leasing rooms out. 

"You could say that short-term rentals have been happening for as long as people have owned homes, and so the precipitating event is really the introduction of technology," he said. 

One of the ideas proposed is to have people who want to rent their places have a special exception permit. This means someone would come to the city council to get permission to use the home for short-term rental. The council would look at the specific property and decide if it is appropriate to rent out depending on the location and neighborhood. The council could also decide if there needs to be any special conditions. 

Moehlman said it may not be appropriate to rent out a room in a neighborhood where parking is an issue. 

"If a neighborhood is already over packed then that could be a situation where the influx of visitors into that neighborhood is unreasonable and would disturb the neighborhood," he said.