After temporarily banning short-term rentals in the city limits, Maryville is getting ready to put options back on the table for people who want to turn their living spaces into miniature hotels.

City Public Services Director Angie Luckie has been the lead on crafting a new ordinance that turns the tables on current short-term rental standards.

Luckie presented a draft of the new code to City Council members and officials gathered for an Aug. 23 workshop.

That draft shows a drastic alteration from current circumstances. Maryville has banned residents from opening up their homes to visitors through sites like Airbnb since late 2018.

Now, per Luckie’s presentation, a total of 14 zoning types will be fair game for an Airbnb.

These include zonings such as neighborhood, institutional, industrial and central community.

Only six zones are set to be prohibitive to short-term rentals, most notably the residential zone, which makes up a significant portion of the city’s real estate.

“The zones that are residential, particularly single-family type residential, we did not want to allow that yet,” Luckie said in an interview. “We may go there some day, but there are a whole lot of other issues to look at.”

Luckie said she knows there may not be many residents living in, say, an industrial zone who want to open a short-term rental, but she’s also not counting out the possibilities.

Mostly, the city is just wary about opening up residential zones to short-term rental options.

Some of that caution is born out of a concern that, if the option was there, the business would boom.

“If you don’t have more limitations ... people will come in and start buying up all the houses (and) suddenly all the affordable housing will go away, so that people can own houses for profit,” Luckie said. “There’s those issues that we would have to work through if we go there.”

City Manager Greg McClain agreed.

“Where we see the real heartache is, if I bought a house in Heritage Hills and my neighbor decides to sell their home, somebody buys that home and never lives in it, but they bought it just for the purpose of making it a B&B, that’s a commercial venture,” he said in an interview.

So, instead of diving into short-term rentals head first and paving the way for an untethered commercial B&B industry, Maryville is considering a thorough approach, complete with specific limitations.

Do’s and don’ts

So how difficult will it be for someone in one of the permitted zones to open that Airbnb they’ve dreamed of?

To start, the application process will take at least two weeks.

According to Luckie’s presented draft of the ordinance, everyone will have to apply for a permit that will be approved or denied by the city within 14 days.

The application fee — whether the permit is granted or not — will cost the prospective host $300, and there will be an annual renewal fee of $100.

Luckie’s presentation stated the fees are to cover two things: first, processing the application and second, inspecting the rental, if necessary.

During the application, the draft proposes rental owners must provide things like an affidavit of life safety compliance and a site plan and floor plan of the home.

Hosts also would be required to designate a 24/7 contact who can respond to the rental within 45 minutes and “take any remedial action necessary in case of complaints or issues,” the presentation showed.

But even applying to be a short-term rental host may come with a variety of restrictions.

For instance, hosts will have to own their property, which in turn already must have been approved for residential occupancy. If the host does not already have a business license with the city, they will have to obtain one — which will cost them $15.

Finally, though the city may be trying to prevent commercial ventures, officials also are guarding against potential liabilities. A piece of the proposed ordinance accordingly shows applicants must “indemnify and hold the city of Maryville harmless” in case of a rental situation gone wrong.

First step

“This is our first step to make it available to see how things work and operate while we’re looking into all those other potential things,” Luckie said of the move toward short-term rental legalization.

She and McClain both expressed that even after the city votes on an amended ordinance, there will be room for change.

“We’re just kind of easing ourself into this,” McClain said.

He also addressed broader issues each city has to consider on their own, including the argument that, while hotels pay taxes, short-term rental hosts do not. The initial ordinance is crafted to help the city put its toe in the water and understand some of the issues associated with taxes and monitoring the short-term rental landscape.

McClain said they are open to possibilities once they have some experience under their belts.

“Council likes the concept,” he added. “This is a new thing. Let’s just don’t throw the barn doors open.”

Meanwhile, the city now will be pressed to deal with short-term rentals already in operation in the city. There are around 12, according to Luckie, and all will ultimately need to apply for permits.

It remains to be seen whether all or any of the currently operating short-term rentals will be allowed to continue, especially if they do not comply with forthcoming regulations.

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