The city of Red Bank currently has no policy for permitting or regulating short term rentals such as VRBO and Airbnb. City Attorney Arnold Stulce said that currently they are not permitted uses in any residential zone so that the ones in operation now are all out of compliance with the current zoning. A public hearing took place at the commission meeting Tuesday night regarding a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance relating to these rental properties.
The change being discussed would have designated where short term rentals would be allowed and where not. The proposal would permit them in R-3, R-4 and the commercial zones but prohibit them in R-1 and R-1A districts. The proposal was also designed to give the city oversight of the practice by establishing rules, such as registration, licensing, regulations, insurance and guidelines, among other things.
Seven people, all who currently rent through Airbnb, spoke in favor of allowing these short term rentals, saying they have had only good experiences. Most of those who spoke are not renting rooms in the homes where they live. They have purchased houses solely for the purpose of using them for short term rentals. One man lives in another city altogether and has bought two houses in Red Bank for this purpose.
Commissioner Terry Pope made a motion to table a vote until the first commission meeting in April. He said he had expected to hear something different from the public than he did. Tabling the discussion will give the commissioners more time to research the practice and to hear from homeowners in R-1 and R-1A districts that are opposed. Commissioner Carol Rose noted that Airbnb is not the only company that does short term rentals and that people coming in and out of neighborhoods might not be vetted by other companies or individuals that participate in these rentals. Citizens of Red Bank are urged to contact the commissioners by email or come to the commission meetings to voice their opinions about short term rentals.
Another public meeting was held in response to a request from Green Tech builders, which is developing a Planned Unit Development (PUD) in the city. The current zoning ordinance requires a 25-foot setback at the rear of the property. The developer requested exceptions and the planning commission recommended approval of reducing the setbacks on two properties in order to roof over decks attached to the houses.
Mr. Stulce advised the commissioners that if the planning commission was allowed to make exceptions using its discretion, the planner commissioners would need to be given the setback number that they could not go below. This would amount to becoming the new minimum setback , he told the commissioners. And he said, if the planning commission was given unfettered authority to fit a situation, it would amount to no regulation at all. The commission voted to deny the request.
Another amendment to the zoning ordinance regarding minimum square footage requirements passed unanimously. New construction in R-1 zones will now be required to have a minimum of 1,400 square feet of heated living space. New construction in R-1A zones will be required to have a minimum of 2,000 square feet of heated living area. This change increases each by 200 square feet.
City Manager Randall Smith said he receives calls daily about large trucks and trailers parked on narrow roads that are blocking traffic. In addition to vehicles blocking driveways, fire trucks, ambulances and other emergency vehicles cannot pass through. An ordinance was passed that will regulate parking of vehicles and equipment on streets within the city, and establish the penalty for violations.
The city is dealing with an increase of false alarms in homes and businesses, said the city manager, and many are at repeat addresses. Each alarm requires response from the police department. An ordinance to address and correct this problem was passed on Tuesday night. The goal is for faulty alarms to be repaired. The city will give the owner time to make repairs before being cited or fined. The first false alarm would receive a notice from the city. For subsequent false alarms during a 12-month period, fines would be imposed.
Approval was given for the purchase of two new vehicles for the police department. A Ford Taurus police interceptor sedan was authorized in the amount of $31,760, and another motor vehicle will be bought from the drug fund operating budget.
An agreement between the city and Tritech software systems was approved in an amount not to exceed $26,352, for computer-aided dispatching software licensing. The police and 911 will now be dispatched via computer and not a dispatcher.
Vice Chair Patricia Baker, Secretary Becky Browder and Board Member Virgil Adams from the Red Bank and Soddy Daisy Charitable Foundation presented the city with a grant of $23,200. The money was designated for replacing the city’s Christmas decorations that were lost in a fire set by vandals at White Oak Park a couple of years ago.