Beginning on Jan. 1, short-term rentals will be officially allowed in residential zones in Springville, though there will be a number of requirements.

The requirements include that the homeowner must get a permit and business license and regulate noise and parking. It also requires that the owner be present during the short-term stay, with some exceptions.

Springville is the latest city in Utah and throughout the United States to attempt to regulate short-term rentals, which have been popularized by companies like Airbnb and Vrbo, in a way that respects the rights of homeowners who wish to rent out part of their property while still preventing “business-type activities” from taking place in residential zones.

After nearly two years of discussion between officials and property owners about how to regulate short-term rentals, the Springville City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 15 to adopt an ordinance allowing regulated short-term rentals to operate “within all Springville City residential zones.”

“This is not the first time that we’ve been here on this item, as you know,” City Attorney John Penrod told the city council, noting that short-term rentals are technically illegal in the city but have not been enforced or regulated up to this point.

The ordinance, which defines a short-term rental as a stay of 30 days or less, states that the owner must be present during a short-term renter’s stay, with the exception of 90 nights throughout the calendar year when the owner can leave and “provide the STR renter with contact information of someone who will be able to immediately respond 24 hours per day during the stay.”

Owners may also take a “temporary absence” of up to three years but “must name a representative that will fulfill the owner’s requirements during the temporary absence.”

It also requires that the home or property owner ensure that, from between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., “the noise will be no more than 60 decibels at the owner’s property boundary,” and that the noise not reach above 80 decibels for more than an hour a day.

A homeowner must receive a business license and permit from the Springville Community Development Department, according to the ordinance, which includes providing a “parking plan that shows how the owner will provide one additional off-street parking space for a STR that is less than 2,000 square feet and two additional off-street parking spaces for an STR over 2,000 square feet.”

Penrod said the ordinance was a “much more simplified” version of a previous ordinance that the city council considered weeks earlier, which councilmembers had requested be reworked. The simplified ordinance was approved by the Springville Planning Commission on Sept. 8.

One Springville resident told the city council he was “really grateful for the drastic shortening” of the ordinance “because it no longer negatively affects my basement AirBnB, as the other one definitely would have.”

“But I’m still frustrated with one portion of it,” he added. “It’s the ‘host present’ portion.”

The resident said he didn’t understand why the user-occupied clause was necessary because the ordinance would already regulate noise and parking.

“There should be no restrictions on us unless we’re causing some type of disturbance to the neighborhood,” he said.

Wes Ostler, a Springville resident whose 8,000-plus square-foot home has been at the center of the short-term rental debate, said the owner-occupied clause “sticks out like a sore thumb to me because it is arbitrary, difficult to enforce and redundant.”

“One of these requirements is not like the others,” said Ostler, who said in February that he no longer lives in the home and rents it out on a per-night basis. “Please consider this question: What problem is the owner-occupied provision solving that isn’t adequately covered by the first three (requirements) already?”

Ostler acknowledged that his neighbors, one of whom compared living next door to “living the Fourth of July, all day, every day,” and the neighbors of other short-term rental owners have a right to “quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their property.”

“There’s no denying that,” he said. “And the first three parts of this ordinance protect that very well. We do not, however, get to have a say in who our neighbors are.

“The city has seen no reason to make regulations about neighborhood integrity in the past, and I would encourage you to be careful about making that leap tonight,” Ostler added.

Councilman Matt Packard said he supported the owner occupancy requirement because “if someone’s not living in the home, it’s not their home.”

“To me, it’s a business,” said Packard. “And that’s not (permitted) in a single-family dwelling zone. That’s the issue that I have, that it’s a business that’s run in there.”

The ordinance is similar to one passed by the Sandy City Council in August 2018 requiring that short-term rentals be owner-occupied, off-street parking be provided and guest count be limited to eight family members or four non-family members.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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