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Short-term rental restrictions kept in some areas, loosened in others

The Ashland City Council Tuesday night took a step back from allowing short-term vacation rentals in single-family zones, but moved to expand their inclusion in multiple-family zones throughout the city. 

In the first reading of a city land ordinance amendment that will govern this growing mode of accommodation for travelers, the council voted 5-1 to exclude short-term rentals from single-family zones. 

Council asked the Planning Commission in November 2013 to review whether to loosen the ban on short-term rentals in single-family zones. The ordinance amendment considered Wednesday was drafted out of that request. 

Only Councilor Rich Rosenthal voted against the motion by Councilor Pam Marsh to move the ordinance along with additional amendments banning short-term rentals in single-family zones while promoting them in multiple-family zones. 

“Any council action creating inflationary pressure on property values at a time when affordable housing is a civic priority, and it‘s so important for people, really sends an inconsistent message,” Rosenthal said. 

He said the negative impact on affordable housing is not worth further promotion of short-term vacation rentals in Ashland. 

The council is scheduled to discuss a second reading of the ordinance amendment during its regularly scheduled meeting on April 7 inside the council chambers at the Civic Center, 1175 East Main. 

Twenty-two community members spoke to the issue in front of the council during Tuesday night’s public hearing. Although the majority who spoke expressed their opposition toward allowing vacation rentals in single-family zones, about a half dozen people voiced their support for the short-term rentals.

“Many a neighbor who bought their house in good faith expecting a quiet neighborhood setting, looking forward to the idyllic life that Ashland offers, suddenly has their next-door neighbors running a short-term rental with new people coming and going every day or two with their suitcases and cars,” said Doug Smith, who lives on Granite Street in Ashland. 

Ashland resident John Baxter downplayed the disturbance of short-term rentals to neighborhoods. Having run one himself in Ashland, he said, his neighbors never ever realized he was doing so. 

Baxter said more and more travelers are beginning to turn toward short-term rentals and if Ashland shies away from the trend, its economy could suffer. 

In Ashland there are two types of short-term vacation rentals: accessory travelers accommodations (ATA) and travelers accommodations (TA).

In an ATA arrangement, only the property owner may conduct rental agreement business; there is a two-bedroom, four-person maximum; one reservation limit; and there is no kitchen facility or meal offering.

Policy surrounding TA arrangements allows for the accommodations any bed and breakfast guest or legitimate vacation home renter would expect. 

In Ashland, renting out homes for less than 30 days is illegal in single-family zones, but allowed within 200 feet of a main arterial streets in business and multifamily zones.

Under Marsh’s amendments to the ordinance that councilors supported Wednesday, ATA’s will be allowed throughout business and multifamily zones, while TA properties will be required to stay with the 200-foot main arterial boundary.

“I think there is a place in our community where this model belongs and at this point I think it is not in the (single-family) neighborhoods,” Marsh said.

Councilor Carol Voisen said “we do have a covenant with (single-family) homeowners to keep that zone truly residential. … A town needs to be a town and we need those residential areas to be kept residential.” 

Councilor Greg Lemhouse called Marsh’s amendment a positive and much-needed compromise.

He said both sides shared reasonable arguments, but echoed Voisen’s statement that single-family home owners, many of them purposefully, purchased their homes in neighborhoods where short-term renting is not allowed. 

Reach freelance reporter Sam Wheeler at samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.