Despite the fact that more than 50 residents showed up at the last meeting of the Lake Ozark Planning and Zoning Commission to voice opposition to the move, Mayor Dennis Newberry isn’t giving up on his attempt to get the commission, and then the board of aldermen, to reverse the ordinance prohibiting nightly rentals in residential areas.
Newberry asked that it be put back on the agenda for the next P&Z meeting set for Wednesday, Dec. 7. This time he’s bringing Eric Riess, an attorney from St. Louis, and Stacy Shore to help him persuade the commission on why they should support his push.
On LinkedIn, a business-to-business platform, Riess wrote that he is a business advisor and attorney who specializes in franchising, licensing and assisting distribution companies in their strategic growth, and that he helps “develop, protect and grow brands both nationally and internationally.”
Shore is a Realtor, as is Newberry.
The topic of nightly rentals has been brought up by Newberry at more than one meeting. At Lake Ozark’s Sept. 27 board of aldermen meeting, Newberry said by prohibiting nightly rentals, aldermen were harming property values. Alderman Judy Neels said she saw firsthand how nightly rentals could have the opposite effect when renters played loud music all night, drank alcohol from neighbors’ dock refrigerators, filled everyone’s trash cans with beer cans and parked on neighboring yards.
Newberry brought the issue up again in the Oct. 5 work session, stating that he felt the city could make upwards of $100,000 annually by allowing rentals only when owners obtained permits, which would cost $250, and on sales tax collected. He said that money could be put toward street repairs.
Then at the Nov. 2 P&Z meeting, Newberry said he was pushing for the move to keep the city from getting sued.
“Our government should not be dictating what you can or can’t do with your property. That’s government overreach. I’m just concerned that we are going to be challenged, especially now that we have gotten into this type of dialogue in our community. Somebody will ultimately come after us,” he said.
Resident Larry Bushjost, a former Lake Ozark alderman and former member of the P&Z Commission, spoke out, saying, “We had no Constitutional issues until we decided we needed tax money. Now that you have a big uproar in your city, it’s become a Constitutional issue.”
Newberry said he disagreed. He said that the ordinance shouldn’t have been passed in the first place and that it was passed because nobody took the time to learn if it was an issue. “But now, because of the proliferation of Airbnb – VRBO – there are literally dozens of them – this is big news throughout the country. They are paying attention to towns like ours that are big tourist towns and they have a coalition of investor-owners and they will seek out communities like ours that have restrictions like ours and somebody will file suit against us,” Newberry argued.
However, Richard Sheets, executive director of the Missouri Municipal League, said that the MML fought for municipalities’ right to regulate nightly rentals.
“We don’t have a stance on whether cities should prohibit or ban short-term rentals but we were involved in that issue when legislation was introduced a couple years ago that would pre-empt cities’ ability to regulate short-term rentals,” he said. “We opposed that because we believe it’s a local control issue – that it’s up to the local city council… Local elected officials elected by local voters should make those decisions. It shouldn’t be something the state dictates, especially in the area of land use, because Lake Ozark is different than Fair View, Mo., which is different from Kansas City, Mo. The issues are different from community to community.”
He also said he knew of no lawsuits filed against any Missouri municipalities who had similar bans against nightly rentals on the books.
“Constitutional issue? I can’t really speak to that. There haven’t been any lawsuits that I’m aware of, but short-term rentals is definitely a hot topic that a lot of cities are talking about because you have some who are adamantly opposed to it and some are adamantly in support of it. Columbia just had public hearings to revise their zoning ordinance,” he said. “Typically cities look at allowing them in certain areas – like multi-family or duplexes. It has been controversial down in the Branson area and in the cities of Herman and Springfield. You can always sue and challenge something, but I haven’t heard of a suit being filed so far. However, legislation was passed last session that preempted local zoning ordinances from regulating home-based businesses. That change in statute could be interpreted to say that they’re permitted in any residential district.”
Either way – he said when nightly rental parties get out of control, the city needs to get on top of the problem quickly, “but I understand their concern. It’s a unique situation at the Lake. People come in on vacation, they let their hair down and think ‘this is not my house so I can go a little crazy.’”
Sheets also said that, currently, there are no laws on the books that require property management companies to collect and remit tax.
“That’s one thing we’re going to talk about next year. To ease opposition from hotels and motels, legislators are looking at passing legislation that would require them to collect lodging tax – and we would support that,” he said. “But it would probably cover short-term rental platforms like Expedia. It would be hard to find those folks who handle a few rental properties at the Lake.”
Sheets also said he didn’t know how property would be assessed by the counties once home-based businesses are included as rentals.
“That will be a tough one. It is a business for many. Companies buy houses only to rent – not to live in – so they are definitely not ‘residences.’ But will assessors mess with that? That’s something the counties will decide,” he said.
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